Week 4: An Ideal Solution Pt. 2

Tejasvi S -

Hello everyone! Welcome to week 4 of this blog! We will begin were we left off with the circular economy. As a reminder, the first two parts were the production the of e-waste and consumer usage.

3. The recycling: The third step is the recycling portion. There are three sections to this: formal recycling, informal recycling, and not recycling at all. Liu et al. (2022) describes the “formal sector as the one dominated by the recyclers with disassembling qualifications, and the informal sector as the one dominated by the recyclers without qualifications.” Formal recycling, because of all the regulations, is considerably more expensive, but does no harm to the environment. Informal recycling is what leads to the detrimental effects on the environment, human health, etc. Most of the informal recycling is “mainly characterized by small-scale, high labor intensive, largely unregulated and unregistered, low technology and low capital investment entities” (Liu et al. 2022). According to Davis et al. (2019) and Robinson (2009), developed countries, and many of these richer areas don’t formally recycle due to “lack of facilities, high labor costs, and tough environmental regulations.”  Hence why many countries sell their e-waste to developing and poorer countries where there aren’t any limiting restrictions on how they recycle e-waste. Many hazardous methods such as open burning, manual dismantling, plastic chipping and melting, heating, and acid leaching, cyanide salt leaching, and mercury amalgamation are conducted where the chemicals used in these processes release millions of toxins into the air, the ground, nearby waterways, etc., leading to many detrimental health effects (Parvaz et al. 2021).  Some health issues that Parvaz et al. (2021) mention are e-waste contaminant exposure that can lead to numerous chronic health conditions, respiratory diseases, neurological conditions, and developmental disorders. The study analyzed studies from various villages in China where e-waste recycling is their main economical support. They were cross-sectional studies of biological screenings of various age groups, genders, etc., comparing the biological screening between the exposed villages and a control. Many of the studies concluded that e-waste exposure did in fact take a toll on one’s health.  The solutions to these issues, Dutta et al. (2022) mentions, are biological treatment methods such as biometallurgy, bioleaching, phytoremediation, biosorption, etc. The only issues with these solutions that Dutta et al. (2022) provide are that these are complicated processes that require labs, and the poorer countries and populations don’t have access to these luxuries. 

4. Regeneration: Once the e-waste is recycled and the valuable resources and metals in it are extracted and given back to the manufacturers and producers to make their electronics, repeating the entire cycle again. 

I hoped you enjoyed learning about the circular economy! See you next week!

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