E-waste is a toxic chemical that poison the air, soil and water over the years. The problem is a lack of infrastructure between manufacturers, processors and end users of technology to arrange proper recycling. Technology and data tracking must make a difference.
The amount of e-waste is increasing rapidly due to the expanding use of electronic gadgets. At the same time, many e-waste has high classes of danger because of the substances contained in them. The WHO warns about health hazards from poisonous elements of e-waste. The risk may come from direct contact or accumulation of substances in the air, soil, water, or food.
Every year, people use 2.5 million tons
more electrical appliances. And every year, about 50 million tons of e-waste are left. It is equivalent, for instance, to the mass of all commercial aircraft ever built.
E-waste affects both people who recycle it and people nearby. This type of waste should be sorted by specialists under safety rules, but in reality, unskilled people do it in dangerous ways. Their actions can poison ecosystems, cause cancer, and damage the nervous system in other people. It is not possible to estimate the global damage caused by such e-waste management.
If nothing in this sphere is changed, the amount of waste will more than double to 111 million tonnes per year by 2050
To prevent the significant harmful impact of e-waste on the environment, most authorities restrict the use of various materials in electronics on the one hand and organize the safe processing of electronic waste with support on the other hand. In the vast majority of developed countries, there is specialized legislation.
set not only some basic processing requirements but also several benchmarks that EU states must achieve. Such legislation has resulted in a significant increase in the amount of e-waste collected and disposed of well.
However, in the EU, which leads the world in e-waste modification, only 17.4%
of this was officially documented as properly collected and recycled. The Global e-waste Statistics Partnership has launched a website
that visualizes available data on e-waste in different countries.
But despite strict legislation, every year more than 352,000 tons of e-waste
are illegally transported from the EU to developing countries. As a result of the global crisis, there has been a significant decline in the prices of primary metals and plastics, which has led to a sharp drop in the profitability of the e-waste processing business. By 2080, broken devices are forecasted
to fill out the landfills.
Basel Action Network
is an NGO investigating e-waste flows. They set trackers into discarded devices that are sent for recycling, and track them, exposing inappropriate approaches to recycling. According to trackers, electronic waste is infrequently processed correctly. The case of Total Reclaim, which signed a recycling agreement but instead sold electronic waste to China, shows total opacity and poor control of e-waste management.
The U.S. sends
e-waste to companies in South Asia and Africa, where workers manually disassemble instruments for metals. They burn garbage outdoors, lower it into acid baths, and then sift through the residues for removing potentially valuable metals such as gold.
In e-waste dumps, terrible working conditions are unsafe for people who do not even know about the toxicity of electronics. All of this has disastrous consequences.
There are some obstacles to forming honest and sustainable e-waste management:
● Complex production specificity (the need for accuracy and high-tech equipment and specialists);
● High labor costs, heterogeneity of recycled items by hazard classes, size, level of demand in the market;
● Lack of stable demand for recycling fractions, sustainable waste flow, collection infrastructure.
By 2080, e-waste wil fill out the dumps
The future is e-waste recycling and closed-loop economy
Blockchain improves the reliability of data on e-waste flows
To change the situation, authorities should not only sponsor and support processing companies. Direct action fails when there is a lack of accountability and engagement. The recycling market requires transparency. Companies need a transparent information exchange environment that can be backed up by tracking sensors, cloud services, and blockchain. Open data about e-waste flows can help companies obtain adequate and honestly gained support from consumers and community organizations.
The implementation of technologies
will improve the environmental situation when the data space becomes protected and accessible using distributed ledger technologies in the e-waste management systems. Blockchain improves
the reliability of data and can accurately track the amount and toxicity of e-waste. Blockchain-based systems for accounting and processing information on the transportation and disposal of waste can become a good basis for international cooperation in the field of e-waste management. Open data flows about the environmental situation and existing problems in each region will enable authorities and residents timely act and regulate e-waste flows.
In addition, the connection of IoT
equipment will provide the ability to automatically verify both individual recycled items and garbage trucks and their contents when entering the landfill. The transmission and analysis of data from onboard vehicle systems along the entire route will significantly reduce costs. With such systems, it is possible to simulate flow changes during the launch of new processing facilities and calculate new potential flows of e-waste.
So far, tech solutions remain within the framework of developments and experiments, but there are already successful examples.
Volvo Cars partners with blockchain startup Circulor
to track Volvo Cars' battery supply chains, enabling full traceability of the highly toxic cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries.
It is the main reason recycling and traceability have such problems.
Ideally, electronics should be easily disassembled and recycled. Instead, workers are engaged in labor-intensive activities: disassemble appliances with expensive equipment and then sell parts to other enterprises. Recycling companies depend on the rare metals market now.
The future lies in the curcular economy
, which will help to maximize the extraction and use of valuable substances from the e-waste.
The world needs a change in the design of electronic devices, and the policy of companies to repair and sell spare parts, and the integration of trackers to track electronics. The material value of e-waste can be estimated at $62.5 billion: this is three times more than the annual production of silver mines in the world. But the damage to the nature and health of people cannot be assessed. If companies do not take care of the environment now, developing countries will become one big poisonous dump.
MediaArticlesNO TIME TO WASTE WITH E-WASTE: Blockchain & Environmental Crisis