Abstract

Electronic and electrical products have become indispensable and ubiquitous in many facets of our daily lives. The quantity with which electronic and electrical products are produced, consumed and discarded is growing rapidly. In addition, the lifespans of these products are getting shorter with many products still functioning when disposed of. Consequently, the combined result of shortened product lifespans with growing demand and consumption of electronic and electrical products, in both developed and developing countries is the escalating growth in end-of-life electrical and electronic products. Electronic waste (e-waste) is highly toxic and is the fastest growing waste stream. Unlike many other categories of waste, e-waste has particularly unique qualities. It not only contains many highly toxic substances it also contains valuable materials and precious metals. This study highlights particular aspects of obsolescence and e-waste processing which have implications for the design of electronic and electrical products in our throwaway society. It investigates growing concerns about the flows of e-waste from industrialised countries to the developing world where hazardous recycling takes place by a burgeoning informal sector. Many of whom are marginalized social groups who resort to e-waste recycling for income and survival. Furthermore, this paper outlines the opportunities for efficient and economical resource recovery and how the design of electronic and electrical products can contribute to improve the integrity and value of recyclates and facilitate safe and efficient end-of-life resource recovery.

Keywords

e-waste, informal e-waste sector, obsolescence

COinS
 
Jul 1st, 12:00 AM

E-waste and Obsolescence: Designing out toxicity

Electronic and electrical products have become indispensable and ubiquitous in many facets of our daily lives. The quantity with which electronic and electrical products are produced, consumed and discarded is growing rapidly. In addition, the lifespans of these products are getting shorter with many products still functioning when disposed of. Consequently, the combined result of shortened product lifespans with growing demand and consumption of electronic and electrical products, in both developed and developing countries is the escalating growth in end-of-life electrical and electronic products. Electronic waste (e-waste) is highly toxic and is the fastest growing waste stream. Unlike many other categories of waste, e-waste has particularly unique qualities. It not only contains many highly toxic substances it also contains valuable materials and precious metals. This study highlights particular aspects of obsolescence and e-waste processing which have implications for the design of electronic and electrical products in our throwaway society. It investigates growing concerns about the flows of e-waste from industrialised countries to the developing world where hazardous recycling takes place by a burgeoning informal sector. Many of whom are marginalized social groups who resort to e-waste recycling for income and survival. Furthermore, this paper outlines the opportunities for efficient and economical resource recovery and how the design of electronic and electrical products can contribute to improve the integrity and value of recyclates and facilitate safe and efficient end-of-life resource recovery.

 

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