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In this module, a case study about electronic waste and extended producer responsibility is presented.

Electronic waste, commonly known as e-waste, refers to discarded electronic products such as televisions, computers and computer peripherals (e.g. monitors, keyboards, disk drives, and printers), telephones and cellular phones, audio and video equipment, video cameras, fax and copy machines, video game consoles, and others (see Figure Electronic Waste ).

photograph of Electronic Waste
Electronic Waste Photograph shows many computers piled up in a parking lot as waste. Source: Bluedisk via Wikimedia Commons

In the United States, it is estimated that about 3 million tons of e-waste are generated each year. This waste quantity includes approximately 27 million units of televisions, 205 million units of computer products, and 140 million units of cell phones. Less than 15 to 20 percent of the e-waste is recycled or refurbished; the remaining percentage is commonly disposed of in landfills and/or incinerated. It should be noted that e-waste constitutes less than 4 percent of total solid waste generated in the United States. However, with tremendous growth in technological advancements in the electronics industry, many electronic products are becoming obsolete quickly, thus increasing the production of e-waste at a very rapid rate. The quantities of e-waste generated are also increasing rapidly in other countries such as India and China due to high demand for computers and cell phones.

In addition to the growing quantity of e-waste, the hazardous content of e-waste is a major environmental concern and poses risks to the environment if these wastes are improperly managed once they have reached the end of their useful life. Many e-waste components consist of toxic substances, including heavy metals such as lead, copper, zinc, cadmium, and mercury as well as organic contaminants, such as flame retardants (polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenylethers). The release of these substances into the environment and subsequent human exposure can lead to serious health and pollution issues. Concerns have also been raised with regards to the release of toxic constituents of e-waste into the environment if landfilling and/or incineration options are used to manage the e-waste.

Various regulatory and voluntary programs have been instituted to promote reuse, recycling and safe disposal of bulk e-waste. Reuse and refurbishing has been promoted to reduce raw material use energy consumption, and water consumption associated with the manufacture of new products. Recycling and recovery of elements such as lead, copper, gold, silver and platinum can yield valuable resources which otherwise may cause pollution if improperly released into the environment. The recycling and recovery operations have to be conducted with extreme care, as the exposure of e-waste components can result in adverse health impacts to the workers performing these operations. For economic reasons, recycled e-waste is often exported to other countries for recovery operations. However, lax regulatory environments in many of these countries can lead to unsafe practices or improper disposal of bulk residual e-waste, which in turn can adversely affect vulnerable populations.

Questions & Answers

Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
what school?
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
anyone know any internet site where one can find nanotechnology papers?
Damian Reply
sciencedirect big data base
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
how to know photocatalytic properties of tio2 nanoparticles...what to do now
Akash Reply
it is a goid question and i want to know the answer as well
characteristics of micro business
for teaching engĺish at school how nano technology help us
Do somebody tell me a best nano engineering book for beginners?
s. Reply
there is no specific books for beginners but there is book called principle of nanotechnology
what is fullerene does it is used to make bukky balls
Devang Reply
are you nano engineer ?
fullerene is a bucky ball aka Carbon 60 molecule. It was name by the architect Fuller. He design the geodesic dome. it resembles a soccer ball.
what is the actual application of fullerenes nowadays?
That is a great question Damian. best way to answer that question is to Google it. there are hundreds of applications for buck minister fullerenes, from medical to aerospace. you can also find plenty of research papers that will give you great detail on the potential applications of fullerenes.
what is the Synthesis, properties,and applications of carbon nano chemistry
Abhijith Reply
Mostly, they use nano carbon for electronics and for materials to be strengthened.
is Bucky paper clear?
carbon nanotubes has various application in fuel cells membrane, current research on cancer drug,and in electronics MEMS and NEMS etc
so some one know about replacing silicon atom with phosphorous in semiconductors device?
s. Reply
Yeah, it is a pain to say the least. You basically have to heat the substarte up to around 1000 degrees celcius then pass phosphene gas over top of it, which is explosive and toxic by the way, under very low pressure.
Do you know which machine is used to that process?
how to fabricate graphene ink ?
for screen printed electrodes ?
What is lattice structure?
s. Reply
of graphene you mean?
or in general
in general
Graphene has a hexagonal structure
On having this app for quite a bit time, Haven't realised there's a chat room in it.
what is biological synthesis of nanoparticles
Sanket Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Sustainability: a comprehensive foundation. OpenStax CNX. Nov 11, 2013 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11325/1.43
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