Week 2: Types of E-waste

Tejasvi S -

Hello again! In this blog I will be talking about the different types of e-waste recycling…

E-waste management mostly occurs in two different methods: Formal recycling and informal recycling.

Formal recycling, in simple terms, is a way of recycling e-waste that is safe and does no harm to the environment. However, formal recycling is a lot more expensive and requires advanced technology and machinery. Formal recycling is most commonly done in higher-income countries since they usually have the most environmental regulations. Since formal recycling is so expensive, these highly regulated countries sell their e-waste to low income countries where informal recycling takes place. It is “estimated that nearly 80% of all e-waste generated in developed countries is exported elsewhere” (Zhang et al. 2012).

Informal recycling is usually done in low and middle income countries because they usually can’t afford to keep up with formally recycling the rapidly increasing e-waste available. These countries also don’t have any government regulations set in place to ensure that the e-waste is safely and formally recycled. To add on, for many people in these countries, turning this e-scrap into valuable resale items is what feeds many of their families. According to the National Library of Medicine, these informal sectors “use rudimentary processes and practices such as open burning, acid baths and heating of circuit boards” which result “in emissions and release of toxic elements into the environment, and exposure to these toxic elements has been reported to be associated with adverse health outcomes such as DNA damage, decreased lung function, change in thyroid function, adverse neonatal outcomes, changes in temperament and behavior, and a myriad of chronic disease risks, including cancer” (Annamalai 2015). Despite the adverse effects of informal recycling, informal recycling can’t be gotten rid of so easily because it creates millions of dollars of revenue and it requires global cooperation. 

So the next time you recycle your e-waste, make sure you know where the waste is going and that it is formally recycled because, being informal recycling has the same, or potentially even worse effects than not recycling at all.

See you next week!

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    Hi Tejasvi, this is so interesting! I was actually just reading an article on AI-powered recycling systems. I wonder how a development like that would impact individuals dependent on the informal recycling process for survival.
    Hi Tejasvi, wow this is very informative! Will your research and information gathered from surveys help you propose ways to reduce the cost of formal recycling?
    Hey Ms. Bennett, that is a great question! Unfortunately this would mean that all these people would loose their jobs, which is what makes the transition so hard.
    Hey Taara, that is a great question! My survey will test if a person is willing to pay for the formal recycling, but it unfortunately does not gather any methods to reduce the costs of recycling.

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