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Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Resources, Conservation and Recycling


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/resconrec

Review

E-waste: An overview on generation, collection, legislation and


recycling practices
Amit Kumar a,∗ , Maria Holuszko a , Denise Crocce Romano Espinosa b
a
NBK Institute of Mining Engineering, University of British Columbia, 517-6350 Stores Road, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
b
Polytechinc School, Chemical Engineering Department, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world in terms of volume and its environmental
Received 27 July 2016 impact on the planet. The existence of precious metals in the e-waste stream provides a major eco-
Received in revised form 2 November 2016 nomic benefit for recycling industries but due to the presence of hazardous chemicals, a proper recycling
Accepted 29 January 2017
technique is required prior to the disposal of the e-waste.
Available online 12 February 2017
This paper presents an overview of the statistics on global e-waste generation and the sales of new
electrical equipment and electronics in general. The total amount of e-waste produced has reached
Keywords:
approximately 41 million tonnes in 2014 and increasing at a rate of 3–5% every year. A correlation between
Electronic waste
Electronics production
e-waste generated, gross domestic product and population of the country has also been explored that
Recycling suggested that the GDP of any country has a direct correlation with the amount of e-waste produced by
Environment that country. The population of the country doesn’t have a significant impact. The paper also describes
the importance and benefits of recycling are emphasized while presenting the techniques currently used
by the recycling facilities.
© 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Contents

1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
2. Definition and categories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
3. Objectives and methodology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
4. Statistics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
5. Global sales of electrical and electronic products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
6. Recycling benefits/reasons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
6.1. Economic reasons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
6.2. Environmental reasons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
6.3. Public health and safety reasons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
7. Current practices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
7.1. Official take-back system . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
7.2. Disposal with mixed residual waste . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
7.3. Collection outside official take-back systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
7.4. Informal collection and recycling in developing countries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
8. E-waste legislations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
9. Estimating quantities for e-waste . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
9.1. Sales obsolescence method (SOM) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
9.2. Survey scale-up method (SSUM) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
9.3. Hybrid sales obsolescence-trade data method (HSOTDM) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
9.4. Mass balance method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

∗ Corresponding author.
E-mail address: amit.kumar.ism@gmail.com (A. Kumar).

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.01.018
0921-3449/© 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
A. Kumar et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42 33

10. Current recycling technologies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40


10.1. Pre-processing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
10.1.1. Dismantling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
10.1.2. Shredding/comminution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
10.1.3. Mechanical separation/enrichment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
10.2. End-processing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
10.2.1. Pyro-metallurgy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
10.2.2. Hydro-metallurgy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
10.2.3. Bio-metallurgy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
11. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

1. Introduction kettles, camera, toys, electronic tools, medical devices, small


monitoring and control equipment;
Electronic waste is a growing concern around the world. 6. Small IT and telecommunication equipment: mobile phones,
With technological advancements, industries have moved towards GPS, pocket calculators, routers, personal computers, printers,
greater automation, which has increased the electrical and elec- telephones.
tronic equipment usage. Electrical and electronics products have
become common in the daily life of the average consumer, fre- Based on the European Union Directive, Widmer et al. (2005)
quently used in manufacturing and other industries. At the same and Gaidajis et al. (2010) have also included medical devices, toys,
time, the development of advanced, faster and more reliable com- leisure and sports equipment and automatic dispensers as e-waste.
puting and processing technologies has led to a decreased product However, these equipment are no longer included in the European
life cycle driving consumers to purchase newer and more current Union Directive (The European Commission, 2012).
in terms of technology products while discarding older products.
All these developments have in turn led to an exponential increase 3. Objectives and methodology
in e-waste generation. According to Balde et al. (2015), the total e-
waste generated worldwide was estimated at approximately 41.8 The major objective of this review paper is to analyze the
million tonnes in 2014 (5.9 kg/inhabitant). influence of electronic waste on the society and environment and
Namias (2013) suggested that the electronic waste contains up establish the major factors affecting the generation of electronic
to 60 metals including copper, gold, silver, palladium and platinum. waste around the world. The secondary objectives and adopted
Recovery of these metals from the e-waste could reduce the total approaches are listed below.
global demand for new metal production to some extent. E-waste
recycling also helps to reduce the amount of material disposed of • Collecting data for e-waste generation. The report published by
in the landfills. Even with all the potential benefits only 15% of the
the United Nations University was used here to gather data
global e-waste is fully recycled (Heacock et al., 2015).
related to e-waste generation.
• Analyzing the factors affecting e-waste generation. The data
reported by United Nations University was combined with the
2. Definition and categories economic and population data from World Bank to establish the
correlation between various indices.
Any electrical and electronic product that had been discarded • Analyzing the future trend of e-waste: To study the future trends,
is considered as an electronic waste or referred to in short as e- the electronic and electrical equipment sales data were collected
waste. A well-rounded definition is very important to have in order as well as the estimated life of various products.
to formulate policies and disposal standards. Solving the e-waste • Understanding the benefits and reasons for recycling. The bene-
problem (SteP) is an international initiative that works on devel- fits analysis of e-waste recycling was performed using values of
oping solutions for the e-waste issue around the globe. According materials present in the e-waste and environmental and public
to Step Initiative (2014), health issues associated with the hazardous materials present in
“E-waste is a term used to cover items of all types of electrical and e-waste.
electronic equipment (EEE) and its part that have been discarded
by the owner as waste without intention of re-use.” Along with these objectives, the current practices to deal with
e-waste and most common recycling methods adopted are also pre-
Balde et al. (2015) divided the electronic waste into six distinct
sented in this paper along with the benefits and issues associated
categories:
with these processes.

1. Temperature exchange equipment: refrigerators, freezers, air 4. Statistics


conditioner, heat pump;
2. Screens & monitors: televisions, monitors, laptops, notebooks, Balde et al. (2015) estimated that the total e-waste produced
tablets; around the world was 41.8 million tonnes in 2014 and expected
3. Lamps: fluorescent lamps, LED lamps, high-intensity discharge to rise to approximately 50 million tonnes by 2018. The estimated
lamps; annual growth rate for the e-waste stream is 3–5% (Cucchiella et al.,
4. Large equipment: washing machines, clothes dryers, electric 2015). This rate is about three times faster than other waste streams
stoves, large printing machines, copying machines, photovoltaic (Singh et al., 2016). The amount of e-waste in different categories
panels; is provided in Table 1.
5. Small equipment: vacuum cleaners, toasters, microwaves, ven- Table 1 shows that the small and large equipment, temperature
tilation equipment, scales, calculators, radio, electric shavers, exchange equipment and screens/monitors are the major contrib-
34 A. Kumar et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42

Table 1 9,000 30
E-waste in different categories. USA
8,000

E-waste per inhabitant (in kg)


China 25
7,000

Total e-waste (in kt)


Categories Amount (in million tonnes)
6,000 20
Temperature exchange equipment 7.0
5,000 R² = 0.0563
Screens & monitors 6.3 15
Lamps 1.0 4,000
R² = 0.9583
Large equipment 11.8 3,000 10
Small equipment 12.8 2,000
Small IT and telecommunication equipment 3.0 5
1,000
0 0
0 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000
GDP (in billion dollars)
Total e-waste E-waste/inh.

Fig. 2. Total e-waste and e-waste/inh. vs. GDP.

8,000 30
USA
7,000 China

E-waste per inhabitant (in kg)


25
6,000

Total e-waste (in kt)


20
5,000
4,000 R² = 0.3897 15
3,000 India 10
2,000
5
Fig. 1. Estimated PV panel waste (Weckend et al., 2016). 1,000
R² = 0.0504
0 0
0 200 400 600 800 1,000 1,200 1,400 1,600
Table 2 Population (in millions)
Total e-waste categorized by continents. Total e-waste E-waste/inh.

Continents Amount (in million tonnes) Amount (kg/inh.) Fig. 3. Total e-waste and e-waste/inh. vs. population.
Africa 1.9 1.7
Americas (north & south) 11.7 12.2
Asia 16.0 3.7 8,000 40
Europe 11.6 15.6 7,000 35

E-waste per inhabitant (in kg)


Oceania (Australia) 0.6 15.2 R² = 0.8327
6,000 30
Total e-waste (in kt)

5,000 25

utors to the electronic waste stream. Photovoltaic panels are a new 4,000 20

type of waste added to the e-waste category. The total amount of 3,000 15
global PV waste stream is expected to reach 43,500–250,000 met- 2,000 10
ric tons by the end of 2016 and will reach 5.5–6 million tonnes by R² = 0.0113
1,000 5
2050 (Weckend et al., 2016). Fig. 1 shows the expected growth in 0 0
waste PV panels. This shows that the e-waste stream is a rapidly 0 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000 1,00,000 1,20,000
GDP per capita (in dollars)
evolving waste streams due to the development of newer products. Total e-waste E-waste/inh.
Similarly, the vast majority of CRT screens are expected to be col-
lected within next 10 years and it will gradually decrease (Singh Fig. 4. Total e-waste and e-waste/inh. vs. GDP per capita.
et al., 2016).
The amount of electronic waste generated by continents and per
inhabitants is listed in Table 2. It confirms the fact that e-waste is generation. On the other hand, the larger population in India is
a concern all over the world but definitely, it is concentrated in the responsible for an increased share of total e-waste generation
regions where economic development is the greatest. (1641 kt), but relatively low e-waste generation per inhabitant due
The e-waste data provided by Balde et al. (2015) is combined to its lower GDP.
with the GDP and population data obtained from World bank Fig. 4 indicates that the electronic waste generated per inhabi-
database (2014) in order to correlate the total e-waste generated tant in any country is correlated with the per capita income of the
in 50 countries with the highest gross domestic product (GDP) and inhabitants which suggests that the amount of electronic waste
with the highest population as shown in Figs. 2 and 3. Fig. 4 shows generated by every inhabitant increases with the increase in their
the correlation between the e-waste and GDP per inhabitant. individual wealth hence purchasing power.
Fig. 2 shows a linear relationship between the GDP and the In summary, Figs. 2–4 suggest that a country with higher GDP
amount of e-waste generated in a country whereas Fig. 3 suggests is most likely to have a higher e-waste generation, on the other
that there is no significant correlation or trend between the popu- hand, a country with larger population doesn’t necessarily produce
lation and the amount of e-waste produced by the country. significantly larger amount of e-waste if the purchasing power and
The two outliers in Fig. 2 are the United States and China. These GDP is lower.
two countries have significantly higher than any other country As an example, a comparison of e-waste generation in India and
GDP ($17,419.0 billion and $10,360.1 billion) and also generate China is shown in Table 3. It shows that both the countries have the
high amounts of e-waste (7072 and 6033 kt) due to their strong similar population but China has higher GDP and higher GDP per
economic development and larger population. In Fig. 3, the three capita which in turns boosts the total e-waste generation.
outliers are the United States, China, and India. As mentioned ear- With the increasing purchasing power of the residents in the
lier, USA and China have high GDP and high share in e-waste developing countries, it is expected that the total e-waste genera-
A. Kumar et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42 35

Table 3 Table 6
E-waste generation comparison in India and China. Value of materials present in e-waste stream (Balde et al., 2015).

Units India China Material Amount (kt) Value (million Euros)

Population million $ 1295.3 1364.3 Iron/steel 16,500 9000


GDP billion $ 2066.9 10,360.1 Copper 1900 10,600
GDP per capita $ 1595.7 7593.9 Aluminum 220 3200
Total e-waste generation kt 1641 6033 Gold 0.3 10,400
E-waste generation per capita kg 1.3 4.4 Silver 1.0 580
Palladium 0.1 1800
Plastics 8600 12,300
Table 4
Number of EEE units sold.

Items Units (in millions) Source Year

Android phones 1675.45 StatisticBrain (2015) 2015


iPhone 6 19.75 StatisticBrain (2015) 2015
Total smartphones 12,444.89 Gartner (2014) 2015
Laptop & desktop 238.5 StatisticBrain (2015) 2016
LCD TV 5.79 StatisticBrain (2015) 2015
Plasma TV 0.63 StatisticBrain (2015) 2015
CRT TV 0.55 StatisticBrain (2015) 2015
Total TV 7.08 StatisticBrain (2015) 2015
Printers 106,000 StatisticBrain (2015) 2014
e-book reader 20.2 StatisticBrain (2015) 2015
Home appliances 583 Statista (2016) 2013
Electric ovens 0.733 (USA) Statista (2016) 2015
Refrigerator 11.13 (USA) Statista (2016) 2013
Automatic washers 9.68 (USA) Statista (2016) 2013 Fig. 5. Potential revenue from e-waste streams (Cucchiella et al., 2015).

Table 5 6.1. Economic reasons


Estimated lifespan of EEE (Ely, 2014).

Items Average life (years) From 2005–2014, the global demand for copper, tin, and silver
Flat panel TV 7.4 in electronics application has been increasing while the demand for
Digital camera 6.5 gold has been relatively stable (Golev et al., 2016). Electronic waste
DVD player or recorder 6.0 contains up to 60 different metals including some valuable and pre-
Desktop computer 5.9
cious metals such as copper, gold, silver, palladium, aluminum and
Blue-ray player 5.8
Video game console 5.7 iron (Namias, 2013). An estimate provided by Balde et al. (2015) as
Laptop/notebook 5.5 shown in Table 6 evaluated the estimated value of e-waste at D 48
Tablet 5.1 billion.
Cellphones (not smartphones) 4.7 The printed circuit board represents the most valuable part of
Smartphones 4.6
e-waste accounting for over 40% of the total e-waste metal value
(Golev et al., 2016). BullionStreet (2012) summarized that 320 t of
gold and 7500 t of silver is consumed by the electronic industry
tion for countries like China, India and Brazil will soon surpass the
every year and urban mining of e-waste could generate $21 bil-
developed countries (Li et al., 2015).
lion each year. Cucchiella et al. (2015) showed that the notebooks,
tablets, and smartphones are the most valuable categories for the
5. Global sales of electrical and electronic products e-waste stream due to the presence of a larger concentration of pre-
cious and critical metals. Almost 3–6% of the total e-waste is printed
The global sales data for various electronics and home appli- circuit boards which contain a significant proportion of valuable
ances are shown in Table 4 (Gartner, 2014; Statista, 2016; metals like gold, silver, gold and palladium. Golev et al. (2016) also
StatisticBrain, 2015). concluded that more than 80% of gold and PGMs and over 70% of
The life expectancy of electronic products listed by Ely (2014) silver are locked in screens, monitors, and small It equipment. Fig. 5
is shown in Table 5. Tables 4 and 5 suggest that all the phones and shows the potential revenue per kg and per unit for some e-waste
laptops/desktops sold in the year 2014–15 will contribute to the streams. The potential revenue from the printed circuit boards is
e-waste stream within 4–5 years. According to Robinson (2009), $21,200/t.
one billion computers will be discarded in next five years. Another At the same time, the concentration of metal in the e-waste
study by Ala-Kurikka (2015) suggested that more than 60% of the stream is significantly higher than the conventional mining oper-
replaced televisions were still functioning in 2012 most probably ations. Studies have shown that the global ore grade are declining
due to the technology change from CRT TVs to LCD and LED TVs and mines are forced to excavate more complex and fine-grained
which indicates that replacement period for consumer electron- ore deposits to meet the global metal demand (Lèbre and Corder,
ics is short due to the rapidly changing industry and technological 2015). Table 7 shows the concentration of metals in various elec-
advancements. With the development of newer technology, older tronics items (Namias, 2013) and an average grade of metal in
technology gets obsolete and report to the waste stream. the ores excavated from mines (Desjardins, 2014; Investing News
Network, 2016; McLeod, 2014; Vincic, 2015). The palladium grade
6. Recycling benefits/reasons is based on the average mill head grade at North American Palla-
dium Ltd. in 2014. Table 7 clearly shows that the average grade
There are three main benefits/reasons for recycling a) economic in electronics for copper, gold, silver and palladium is significantly
benefits b) environmental benefits and c) public health and safety higher than that of an orebody extracted by the conventional min-
benefits. ing operation.
36 A. Kumar et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42

Table 7 Table 9
Metal concentration in electronics and ore (Desjardins, 2014; Investing News Recycled material energy saving over virgin materials (Cui and Forssberg, 2003).
Network, 2016; McLeod, 2014; Namias, 2013; Vincic, 2015).
Materials Energy saving (%)
Product Copper Silver Gold Palladium
Aluminum 95
(% by wt) (ppm) (ppm) (ppm)
Copper 85
Television board 10 280 20 10 Iron and steel 74
PC board 20 1000 250 110 Lead 65
Mobile phone 13 3500 340 130 Zinc 60
Portable audio scrap 21 150 10 4 Paper 64
DVD player scrap 5 115 15 4 Plastics >80
Average electronics 13.8 1009 127 51.6
Ore/mine 0.6 215.5 1.01 2.7
Recycling metals from e-waste provide significant energy sav-
ing compared to virgin materials as shown in Table 9. This energy
Table 8
Metals present in mobile phones and run of mine ore (Electronics TakeBack saving then directly has a direct impact on the greenhouse gas
Coalition, 2014). emissions due to new metal production.
For example, recycling 10 kg aluminum not only provides a 90%
Amount (kg) Mobile phones Run of mine ore
energy saving but also prevents the creation of 13 kg of baux-
Gold 24 1 million units ∼ 148.4 t 23,762.4 t of gold ore ite residue, 20 kg of CO2 gas and 0.11 kg of SO2 gas (Electronics
Silver 250 1160.1 t of silver ore
Palladium 9 3333.3 t of palladium ore
TakeBack Coalition, 2014). Similarly, recycling iron and steel pro-
Copper 9000 1500.0 t of copper ore vides 74% of energy saving, 86% reduction in air pollution, 40%
reduction in water use, 76% in reduction in water pollution, 97%
reduction in mining wastes and 90% saving in virgin materials use
An estimate provided by Electronics TakeBack Coalition (2014) (Cui and Forssberg, 2003). Van Eygen et al. (2016) showed that recy-
regarding the amount of various metals that can be recovered from cling of desktops and laptops provides 80 and 87% resource saving
recycling 1 million cell phones is shown in Table 8. It also shows respectively as shown in Fig. 6.
the amount of run of mine ore that needs to be processed in order
to obtain the same amount of metal based on the average metal 6.3. Public health and safety reasons
grade shown in Table 7. It shows that the amount of run of mine
ore that needs to be processed to obtain the same amount of metals As indicated earlier, the e-waste stream contains hazardous
is 10–160 times more than that of the waste mobile phones. The metals and chemicals. It not only poses a threat to the environment
data assumes 100% recovery in both mobile phones and run of mine but also to the public health and safety. Garlapati (2016) presented
ore. a list of hazardous components and chemicals present in e-waste
E-waste also provides a better opportunity for an already scarce as shown in Table 10.
natural element such as gallium (annual production ∼215 t) and Table 11 shows the effect of the various hazardous material
indium (annual production ∼1100 t). Both these metals have an present in e-waste on the human health (Brigden et al., 2005). Balde
estimated life of 20 years before it completely runs out (Li et al., et al. (2015) also concluded that the hazardous materials from the
2015). e-waste can impair mental development, kidney, and liver damage
From an economic point of view, the e-waste industry is and have carcinogens released into the air causing lung damage.
also capable of creating additional jobs. 296 more jobs for every A typical recovery method in informal sector for recovering cop-
10,000 t of material disposed of can be created by computer reuse per from the cables is to burn polyvinyl chloride in open air and
(Electronics TakeBack Coalition, 2014). In Guiyu, China, informal acid/caustic leaching of printed circuit boards to obtain precious
e-waste recycling provided jobs to almost 100,000 people as e- metals (Velis and Mavropoulos, 2016). These methods, disposal
waste recyclers (Heacock et al., 2015). With the similar throughput, of these chemicals/metals in landfills or by incineration produce
300–600 new treatment facilities will have to be developed in China harmful effects to the environment and life can be exposed to these
to deal with the total generated e-waste from 2020 to 30 that can chemicals through water, air, soil, dust or food (Heacock et al.,
potentially provide jobs to 30,000 people (Zeng et al., 2016). 2015). The amount of cadmium present in a cell phone battery have
a potential to contaminate 600m3 of water (Garlapati, 2016).
6.2. Environmental reasons Scruggs et al. (2016) showed that the consumers can be exposed
to the hazardous chemical while using the electronics products.
The recycling industry plays a key role in environmental pro- Decabromodiphenylether, a common flame retardant in electron-
tection by keeping the hazardous waste out of the landfills thus ics casing, form polybrominated dibenzofurans when exposed to
reducing the risks associated with disposal. The e-waste stream normal sunlight and accumulate in household and office dust and
contains many hazardous materials such as mercury, cadmium, can eventually end up in the water supplies.
lead, chromium, poly/brominated flame retardants, ozone deplet- Brigden et al. (2005) also showed the elevated levels of
ing chemicals such as CFC etc. (Balde et al., 2015). Disposal of these these hazardous materials in different e-waste processing facil-
chemicals/metals in the landfill or by incineration produce harmful ities and workshops in China and India. For example, the
effects to the environment. Well controlled and regulated landfill discharge channel sediments near Guiyu to Nanyang road
and incineration might provide a temporary solution to the global and Chendiandian to Guiyu road in China had elevated lev-
e-waste problem but not viable in the longer term especially for the els of copper (9500–45900 mg/kg), lead (4500–44300 mg/kg),
countries with the scarcity of landmasses such as Japan and Europe tin (4600–33000 mg/kg), antimony (1390–2150 mg/kg), nickel
and it also reduce the possibility of resource recovery. (150–2060 mg/kg) and cadmium (13–85 mg/kg) which was
On the other hand, recycling e-waste will reduce the total 400–600 times higher than that is expected from uncontami-
global demand for new metal production, which helps to reduce nated river sediments. Similarly, a sample from the final spent acid
the greenhouse gas emissions. According to Electronics TakeBack wastes from an acid processing/leaching facility in Mandoli Indus-
Coalition (2014), it requires 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals trial area (New Delhi, India) showed elevated levels of antimony
and 1.5 t of water to produce one computer with monitor. (68 mg/l), copper (240 mg/l), lead (20 mg/l), nickel (478 mg/l), tin
A. Kumar et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42 37

Fig. 6. Resource savings from recycling of desktops and laptops.

Table 10
Hazardous components and chemicals in e-waste.

Components Substance Occurrence in e-waste

Halogenated Polychlorinated biphenyls Condensers, transformers


Compound Polybrominated biphenyls Fire retardants for
Polychlorinated diphenyl ether plastics
Chlorofluorocarbon Cooling unit, insulation foam
Polyvinyl chloride Cable Insulation

Radio-active substances Americium Medical equipment, fire detectors, active sensing element in smoke detectors

Heavy and other metals Arsenic Light emitting diodes


Barium Getters in CRT screens
Beryllium Power supply boxes contains silicon controlled rectifiers and x-ray lenses
Cadmium Rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries, fluorescent layer in CRT screens, printer inks and toners
Chromium VI Data tapes, floppy disk
Lead CRT screens, batteries, printed circuit boards
Lithium Li-batteries
Mercury Fluorescent lamps, alkaline batteries
Nickel Rechargeable Ni-Cd batteries, electron gun in CRT screens
Rare earth elements Fluorescent layer
Selenium Older photocopying machines
Zinc sulphide Interior of CRT screens

Others Toner dust Toner cartridges for laser printer/copiers

Table 11
Harmful effects of hazardous materials.

Materials Effect on human health

Antimony Severe skin problems and other health effects


Cadmium Damage to kidneys and bone structure, accumulate in body over time
Lead Highly toxic for human, plants and animals, irreversible effects on nervous system especially in children,
accumulate in body over time
Mercury Highly toxic, damage to central nervous systems and kidneys, get converted to organic methylated form that
is highly bio-accumulative
Nonylphenol Cause intersex in fish, build up in food chain, damage DNA and sperm function in humans
Polybrominated diphenyl ether Interfere with growth hormones and sexual development, effect on immune systems, interfere with brain
development in animals
Polychlorinated biphenyls Suppression of immune system, liver damage, cancer promotion, damage to nervous system, behavioral
changes and damage to male and female reproductive system
Polychlorinated naphthalene Toxicity to wildlife and possibly humans, impacts on skin, liver, nervous systems and reproductive system
Triphenyl phosphate Toxic to aquatic life, strong inhibitor of key enzyme system in human blood, can cause contact dermatitis and
possible endocrine disruptor

(340 mg/l) and zinc (2710 mg/l) along with phthalate esters and formal recycling sites with elevated content of nickel, copper, lead,
chlorophenols. These elevated levels of hazardous metals show the zinc and cadmium in Philippines (Yoshida et al., 2016).
importance of proper recycling techniques and safer recycling facil- Scruggs et al. (2016) suggested that goal of Strategic Approach
ities that can reduce the risks related to the environmental and to International Chemicals Management of ensuring the delivery of
public health and safety issues. Similar results were obtained from the chemical information to all the stakeholders in the electronic
38 A. Kumar et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42

products management chain including governments, chemical pro-


ducers, manufacturers, brand owners, consumers, recyclers and
waste handlers is yet not achieved. It was recommended that a list
of chemicals used in the product and reporting information should
be identified and streamlined software to enable automated data
exchange should be implemented. The materials tracking in the
product chain is also important to identify the bottleneck in the
product chain.

7. Current practices

According to Widmer et al. (2005), about 70% of heavy metals in


US landfills comes from e-waste. Balde et al. (2015) classified the
current practices adopted to deal with e-waste into four categories.

7.1. Official take-back system


Fig. 8. Global scenario of e-waste management.
This method is mostly observed in developed countries where
e-waste is collected by municipalities (curbside collection, munici-
pal collection points), retailers or commercial pick-up services and 1. Local dumping: applies to the large part of the world where e-
then sent for further processing to different centers. waste is landfilled
2. Export and dump: e-waste is exported to developing countries
7.2. Disposal with mixed residual waste and dumped there
3. Low-level recovery: Mostly seen in developing countries and
This practice is mostly observed in developing countries where provides jobs and saves energy and raw materials.
e-waste is disposed of with the household waste that goes to land- 4. High-level recovery: It also saves energy and raw materials.
fills or incineration and has a very low chance of separation. In Additionally, it prevents illegal export to developing countries.
the end, it adds up to the toxic leaching in a landfill or harmful
emissions in the air if incinerated.
8. E-waste legislations

7.3. Collection outside official take-back systems Legislation around the world is in place to develop and practice
the efficient and sustainable way of e-waste collection, recycling,
This practice is mostly observed in developed countries where and transportation.
e-waste is collected by individual waste dealers or companies and The European WEEE Directive in 2002 was developed to man-
then sent to metal recycling, plastic recycling or exported. An esti- age the end of life electronics in the European Union to improve
mated 50%–80% of total e-waste is shipped from the USA to the the collection and efficiency of the recycling chain whereas the
developing countries (Namias, 2013). According to Cucchiella et al. RoHS Directive restricted the use of certain hazardous substances
(2015) almost 50% of the e-waste generate by the developed coun- in the EEE production. The collection targets are defined as a fixed
tries is illegally is exported to China and a significant quantity amount per inhabitant (currently 4 kg). In 2016, the regulations
also goes to India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Nigeria, were changed and the collection target was defined as 45% of the
Ghana and possibly Mexico and Brazil. WorldLoop (2013) showed amount of EEE put on the market. In 2019, it will be increased to
the known and suspected destination of e-waste as shown in Fig. 7. 65% of the EEE or 85% of the WEEE (Van Eygen et al., 2016). Van
Golev et al. (2016) suggested that the e-waste collection system Eygen et al. (2016) showed that the recycling targets of WEEE in the
in Australia and other developed countries doesn’t allow feasible European Union doesn’t promote the recovery of metals present in
material recovery within domestic borders that results in massive minor amounts.
exports of e-waste for processing to developing countries. Adop- The Basal convention was designed in 1992 under United
tion of better technological advancements, small scale recycling Nations Environment program to monitor and control the trans-
and controlled landfilling will be viable options to decrease the ille- boundary flow of hazardous wastes and their disposals. Several
gal processing and exports. Designing modular recycling system international organizations such as Mobile Phone Partnership Ini-
and infrastructure should be able to boost the e-waste recycling tiative (MPPI), Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP), Partnership for
rate around the world (Li et al., 2015). Action on Computing Equipment (PACE), National Electronics Prod-
uct Stewardship Initiative (NEPSI) WEEE Forum were launched to
7.4. Informal collection and recycling in developing countries control the e-waste problem (Widmer et al., 2005).
Japan launched the Home Appliance Recycling Law (HARL) and
Mostly observed in developing countries where self-employed Small Appliance Recycling Law to increase the recycling rate due
people engaged in collection and recycling of e-waste collect the to the scarcity of land mass for solid waste disposal. Countries like
e-waste. The collection is mostly door-to-door basis with unskilled USA and Canada doesn’t have proper federal regulations to deal
workers. If the collected waste does not have any value, then it with the e-waste issue rather than rely on policies imposed by the
is dumped into the landfill or incinerated and this causes severe provincial government for e-waste management (Li et al., 2015).
damage to the environment and poses serious human health risks. The extended producer responsibility and the eco-fee are a tool to
Informal recycling uses larger labor force and low-level technology improve the e-waste collection and recycling in North America and
and includes junk shops or private individuals and generate low the European Union.
levels of income (Yoshida et al., 2016). Australia have passed the National Waste Policy (2009) and
Four scenarios of e-waste management were reviewed by National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme (2011) to
(2016) and a future outlook was proposed as shown in Fig. 8. improve the recycling rate but the e-waste management in
A. Kumar et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42 39

Fig. 7. Known and suspected routes of e-waste dumping (WorldLoop, 2013).

Australia is not properly implemented, based on outdated targets 9.1. Sales obsolescence method (SOM)
and it lags behind the international best practices (Gough, 2016).
China placed the extended producer responsibility practice in This model uses the sales data and lifespans of electronics
2011 for WEEE recycling. India developed the “Guidelines for envi- obtained through survey and trends in survey collection rates.
ronmentally sound management of e-waste” in 2008 to classify Uncertainty in data sets is incorporated using the Monte Carlo sim-
the e-waste according to the components and compositions. The ulations (Miller et al., 2016). The sales data for a region over a time
e-waste management and handling guidelines were developed in period is collected and then the lifespan of electronics product is
2011 for e-waste collection and recycling. In Indonesia, there is evaluated based on use, storage, reuse data obtained from the sur-
no specific legislation for e-waste management but it is regulated vey over a time period. Then prediction for waste generation is
as the hazardous and toxic waste under the Republic of Indonesia performed using sales data and lifespans. Tran et al. (2016) used
Act concerning Environmental protection and Management. Both a similar approach to model the invisible TV inflow. The invisi-
Indonesia and Philippines are in the process of finalizing their e- ble inflow of electronic is the equipment that enters the market
waste legislation (Yoshida et al., 2016). without administratively registered. It was concluded that approx-
Zeng et al. (2017) pointed out the two major gap in the current imately 20% of the total TV inflow in Vietnam was invisible in 2013.
e-waste regulation: lack of proper concern on recovered materials The major uncertainties associated come from assumptions and
and no control on substances to avoid heavy metal entering into a simplifications used for calculation. Additional and better data can
new product. It was suggested that knowledge base regarding the improve the model prediction.
environmental risk and ecotoxicology of these substances should
be illustrated and new development in the field of e-waste recycling 9.2. Survey scale-up method (SSUM)
is needed to reduce the amount of toxic substances entering in the
downstream processes. It uses survey data and census data to quantify the genera-
There are still challenges in the implementation of these rules tion and collection of e-waste for a region. The estimates at the
and regulations. The policies in place haven’t yet completely national level are produced using scaling factors. The estimates for
stopped the trade of toxic e-waste. The Basel Action network (BAN) the national level are scaled up using the data obtained from the
tracked around 200 non-functional devices dropped off at various regional level. This is achieved by comparing the national popula-
recycling sites in the USA and 32.5% of the tracked equipment were tion to the surveyed population. Miller et al. (2016) showed that
exported, 31% of the tracked equipment were likely to be illegal the data obtained using SSUM method had a lower coefficient of
shipment (Grossman, 2016). Since a major amount of e-waste from variation (3–6%) than the SOM (3–28%).
developed countries ends up in developing nations, an interna-
tional technical cooperation and support program will be important
9.3. Hybrid sales obsolescence-trade data method (HSOTDM)
to achieve better management systems (Yoshida et al., 2016). The
manufacturers, recyclers, state and federal regulators and the pub-
This is a modified SOM method that uses sales and survey data
lic need to work together to deal with the increasing volume of
for to estimate generation, survey collection rate to estimate collec-
e-waste (Singh et al., 2016).
tion and detailed trade data to estimate export (CEC, 2016). Since
the trade data for all types of electronics are readily available for
each year and also provides the estimates for the future including
9. Estimating quantities for e-waste the destination country, hence this method is more detailed.

Most often data related to e-waste generation or collection 9.4. Mass balance method
are not completely available for various regions. There are several
methods proposed to estimate the e-waste generation, collection, This method uses extrapolation of survey data to quantify the
recycling, domestic and transboundary flow. electronic flows. It provides the ability to estimate several used
40 A. Kumar et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42

electronic products simultaneously with fewer data inputs. The Table 12


Leaching agents for hydrometallurgical treatment (Namias, 2013).
exports are calculated using mass balance hence it has higher
uncertainty and the export destination can’t be identified (CEC, Metal Leaching agent
2016). Base metals Nitric acid
Copper Sulphuric acid or aqua regia
10. Current recycling technologies Gold and silver Thiourea or cyanide
Palladium Hydrochloric acid or sodium chlorate

There are two common steps used in the recycling of e-waste


around the world.
aluminum. Different sensors are also being developed/used to sepa-
rate various streams from each other. For example, infrared sensors
a Pre-processing that includes dismantling, shredding, mechanical
can be used to separate different plastics whereas optical sensors
separation
can be used for glass (Kellner, 2008).
b End-processing that includes pyro/hydro/bio metallurgical treat-
ment.
10.1.3.1. Benefits. Faster automated system, reduced public health
10.1. Pre-processing and safety issue, increased throughput, lesser mass/volume to
transport for final process, less energy intensive.
This step usually deals with manual disassembly of electronic
devices, removing hazardous materials and separating various 10.1.3.2. Issues. Higher capital investment, not suitable for small
streams such as metals, glass, and plastics. The remaining mate- recycling businesses, dust issue with dry systems, moisture
rial that can’t be manually separated is sent for shredding and then removal issue for wet systems.
separation of metals from plastics and glass is achieved by using
processes such as magnetic and gravity separation (Namias, 2013).
10.2. End-processing

10.1.1. Dismantling
End-processing involves processes to recover valuable metals
Dismantling process is mainly adopted to remove the hazardous
from the concentrate obtained after pre-processing and mostly
materials from the waste stream and then separating it manually
used to recover and purify copper, gold, silver and palladium. The
into metal, plastics and glass fractions. The waste fraction that can’t
most widely used processes are pyrometallurgy, hydrometallurgy,
be separated manually is usually shipped to a centralized loca-
and bio-metallurgy (Namias, 2013).
tion for shredding and then use mechanical techniques to achieve
separation.
10.2.1. Pyro-metallurgy
10.1.1.1. Benefits. Removal of hazardous materials, less dust issue, The pyrometallurgical process involves melting the materi-
higher grade material for end-processing, more job opportunities. als/concentrate in a high-temperature furnace to obtain a mixture
of desired metals that are further purified mostly using electro-
10.1.1.2. Issues. Hard to dismantle newer complex technologies, refining. It is mostly used to recover copper, gold, silver and
time-consuming, higher spending on labor and transportation palladium. Iron and aluminum usually get oxidized and report to
cost, additional greenhouse gas emissions due to transportation, the slag (Namias, 2013).
increased risk of public health and safety.
10.2.1.1. Benefits. Higher/faster reaction rates due to high temper-
10.1.2. Shredding/comminution ature and easier separation of valuable and waste.
This step involves decreasing the particle size of the material for
subsequent processing. A number of equipment, metal shredders, 10.2.1.2. Issues. High energy requirement, generation of dioxins,
hammer mills and knife mills, are currently being used for crushing furans and volatile metals causing environmental and public health
and grinding the electronic waste (Schubert and Hoberg, 1997). and safety issue, loss of iron and aluminum in slag, recovery of
plastics is not possible, partial purity of precious metal (Khaliq et al.,
10.1.2.1. Benefits. Faster automated systems, reduced risk of public 2014; Veit et al., 2014).
health and safety, increased throughput, less volume for trans-
portation.
10.2.2. Hydro-metallurgy
Hydrometallurgical treatment involves leaching of the concen-
10.1.2.2. Issues. High dust issue, loss of material (up to 40%) as dust
trate from the pre-treatment with various chemicals to dissolve
(Namias, 2013), increased capital investment, decreased grade for
the valuable metals into solution. Specific leaching agents are used
subsequent operation.
to precipitating specific metals from the waste material that are
finally purified using electro-winning.
10.1.3. Mechanical separation/enrichment Table 12 lists some of the most commonly used agents to leach
This step is used to separate various streams from the shredded metals from the concentrate/waste.
material. Most of the units used in a recycling facility are operated
dry but some researchers have shown high efficiency with a wet
operation such as gravity concentration and flotation as well (Das 10.2.2.1. Benefits. More accurate, predictable, easily controlled,
et al., 2009; Duan et al., 2009; Veit et al., 2014). less energy intensive (Veit et al., 2014).
Magnetic separation is used to remove ferromagnetic materi-
als such as iron, steel, and rare earth metals. Density separators 10.2.2.2. Issues. Slow, time-consuming, the requirement of fine
such as air tables, air cyclones, and centrifugal separators are used grinding for efficient leaching, more chemicals required, high tox-
to recover base metals such as copper, gold, and silver from non- icity, high reagent consumption, high cost, generation of effluent
metal fractions. Eddy current separators can be used to recover (Khaliq et al., 2014; Veit et al., 2014).
A. Kumar et al. / Resources, Conservation and Recycling 122 (2017) 32–42 41

10.2.3. Bio-metallurgy natural ores that these metals are mined from (for Au is almost 130
Bio metallurgical treatment is an environmentally friendly times higher). It can provide a large quantity of valuable metals oth-
process where microbes are used to leach metal out of the erwise representing a wasted stream of garbage. On the other hand,
waste/concentrate. This method has been gaining popularity for creating environmental and public health risks due to the presence
leaching copper and gold ore. Acidophilic bacterium Thiobacillus of harmful elements and chemicals in their composition.
Ferrooxidans is most widely used microbes to leach copper and Various metallurgical routes are currently being implemented
gold (Bosecker, 1997). The final purification is performed using to recover metals from the e-waste stream, but due to the complex
electro-winning. nature of e-waste, new processes or improvements in the current
processing technologies are required.
10.2.3.1. Benefits. Low operating cost, reduction in chemical usage,
easier handleability of waste water/effluent, more eco-friendly
(Namias, 2013). References

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