What is E-waste?
Any electrical or electronic device or even a part of it that is discarded by its user, or no longer used by its owner can be considered e-waste or WEEE i.e. Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment.
Thus, e-waste is not just electronics or electrical equipment that does not work; but also those that are functional but have been discarded.
For eg., a mobile phone that is operational but is no longer used and by its owner and is simply lying locked away in a cabinet or a cupboard is also e-waste.
E-waste can thus be reused, repaired and recycled depending on the state of the EEE (Electrical or Electronic Equipment)
Various Types of E-waste
We see numerous types of devices and electrical machines around us, thus e-waste too is of various types. However, from the point of view of waste management, e-waste can be categorised broadly into 6 categories:
TEMPERATURE EXCHANGE EQUIPMENT
SCREENDS and MONITORS
SMALL IT and TELECOMMUNICATION EQUIPMENT
Temperature Exchange Equipment
Temperature exchange equipment, more commonly referred to as cooling and freezing equipment: refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, heat pumps
Screens and Monitors
Screens and monitors refer to televisions, monitors, laptops, notebooks, and tablets
These include fluorescent lamps, high-intensity discharge lamps, and LED lamps
These include washing machines, clothes dryers, dish-washing machines, electric stoves, large printing machines, copying equipment, and photovoltaic panels
These include vacuum cleaners, microwaves, ventilation equipment, toasters, electric kettles, electric shavers, scales, calculators, radio sets, video cameras, electrical and electronic toys, small electrical and electronic tools, small medical devices, small monitoring and control instruments
Small IT and Telecom Equipment
These include Mobile phones, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), pocket calculators, routers, personal computers, printers, telephones
How is E-waste Recycled?
The recycling of e-waste is a multi-step, inter-disciplinary process. E-waste is first sorted and dismantled. For eg., a refrigerator will first be de-gassed i.e. its refrigerant gas and oils will be removed, after which its various parts like the compressor, motor, doors, capacitors and Printed Circuit Boards will be dismantled and separated out.
After this, these various components are processes through various machines or further manually opened to separate out into different material streams like Iron, Copper, plastics etc that are then sent to specific refineries or other material recovery units to regain the materials in their pure form.
The video on the left is a fair representation of how e-waste is recycled.