Management Solutions for Electronic Waste Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

" (from World environmental news, Internet edition)

Besides developing flexible legislation that will distribute the functions of recycling between manufacturers and municipal services there has to be a definite and developed program that would specialize on the optimal and the most exhaust utilization of electronic waste, reduction of e-waste landfills and incineration. Recycling program should not be limited to the recycling of CRT monitors, as their owners are more likely to bring the whole obsolete computer system to the recycling, not just computer monitors.

The benefit of integral program of recycling is that it allows using a variety of materials used in the electronics manufacturing like precious metals, semi-precious metals, and some electronic items in the reuse.

The most important part of the e-waste management is search of the most appropriate and qualified partners in the technical or practical part of the problem solution. This problem is of the essential value, as the efficiency of e-waste management depends primary on the executives of the practical side more than on simple legislature. Legislature may pave the way to the problem solution but can not solve it all by ecological and environmental laws and bills. In order to involve partners and government investors it's important to outline one extra benefit of e-waste recycling: it may create extra jobs for unemployed people as well as will create training programs for electronic items repairing and reusing. So this practice will be able to solve partly the problem of unemployment, training courses and recycling.

Another important aspect is collecting of e-waste. As most of customers still prefer to store obsolete electronics in their garages, store-rooms, etc. e-waste management executives have to break this stereotype and have to give some recoveries to the owners of old electronics in order to develop the process of recycling, it also refers to high schools and educational institutions as they represent a remarkable percentage of electronics users. Besides e-waste management, officials have to develop the transportation program that will allow common residence to utilize electronics without spending money on transportation and on utilization fees.

The organization of this process is quite an expensive project, but the results will cover all the finance spent. If to calculate the damages from lead pollution, from mercury pollution, money spending on polluted water clean up and on medical expenses to recover those who suffered from mercury and lead pollution- the balance would be in favor of e-waste management absolutely. Moreover, e-waste management would create redistribution of environment protection and clean-up technology functions in environment protection and control over the solid waste in urban areas. It will make the waste utilization process more optimal, cheap and convenient both for official authorities and common residents and of course it will be more beneficial for environment.

E-waste management may become a profitable business if it becomes organized and operates on a regular basis. In addition; it seems to be one of the most profitable in the complicated structure of the solid waste utilization industry. The only problem that it faces is that sorting of electronic waste has to be done on the professional level.

If the materials of electronic waste have a definite value that will cover transportation, recycling and managing costs it may become a profitable business and will help to save raw materials for future. It's generally understood that the cost of the materials got from the recycling process is lower than the cost of the materials got by common industrial practices.

It often happens that business electronic waste may be reusable and repaired, and these services will appear to have a greater value than simple utilization and recycling.

It's also important to pay a special attention to business electronic waste as it has a higher potential to be reused than waste form urban residents.

Reuse of the electronic items seems to be the most appropriate solution of the problem. As modernization of business electronics happens constantly and sometimes businesses even do not have time to manage with obsolete electronics, it turns into a waste with time. By the way most of its components might be reused, or at least have a potential to be used if repaired. E-waste management theory assumes that businesses might donate obsolete or not-used electronics to non-profit, or charity organizations that would care in future about its distribution to become in use again. As there might be only a small percentage of reusable electronics in the residential sector of electronics customers, than the priority in this direction of solving the problem has to be given to business organizations.

In order to encourage the following practices environmental officials suggest using tax deductions to such donators, and taking the function of transporting electronic products to their potential user, or at least to the non-profit organization which works with this problem. The only problem is to have a certain kind of expertise which would determine the potential of electronics to be used again and its possible working period.

Recycling-modern practices

Nowadays, the practice of recycling e-waste gets a constant spread all over developed industrialized countries. The main problem for the development of this kind of industry is lack of regulating legislation.

According to the research done by Macauley, Palmer and Smith in 2003: "Currently only about 10% of all CRT are being recycled." Data is not convincible, but still the changes in the attitude towards the problem are observed. National safety council of Canada reports that: "between 6% and 14% of computers are being recycled."

This modest data proves that the main tool in the future solution of this problem can not be limited to simple legislation, but people's attitude towards problem has to be changed as well. From this point government officials have to develop special education programs that would inform residents about the importance of the problem, about the danger of e-waste materials and about an urgent need of introducing new practices in solution of this problem.

The only exception from this rule are environmental groups in Silicon Valley. "Private activism groups in Silicon Valley start playing an important educational role in informing residents about the importance of e-waste recycling and plan to introduce educational environmental practices in public education institutions" (SVTC)

In Canada recycling practices are of no concern from the side of officials at all. That modest data of computer recycling, which varies in the limits of 10-15% of computer equipment being recycled shows that this problem is the narrow interest of certain industrial businesses but not a public concern at all. The main problem in the solution or at least in the search for solutions is public environmental illiteracy and indifference, which makes barrier to be bigger even compared to none effective legislation. Plus, there are nearly no real facilities for recycling of e-waste on industrial basis.

Macauley in his study suggests a solution of the CRT screens recycling which includes banning incineration practices and development of recycling industry through government financing of the recycling programs. But other authors have another point-of-view on this problem, even if Macauley insists:

to simply ban incineration, as this disposal technique has the greatest environmental and health damages"(Macauley Dealing with electronic waste: modeling the cost and environmental benefits of computer monitor disposal 2003).

Their point-of-view has strong arguments even referring to the data provided by Macauley, who made the calculations about the approximate cost of recycling, benefits from recycling and profits. Still this statistics shows that, simple banning and susidizing of the recycling practices by government authorities won't be able to solve the probem as this is a very expensive project and it may be simply rejected by local authorities if local budget can not afford it. According to Macauley's data by the words of Mathieu Ruel, official would have to subsidize over the 50% of recycling expenses, as he writes in Sustainable solution for E-waste:

Although the cheapest alternative, to me that is not enough, especially when they estimate that if all types of disposal were banned (case a, b, g), the cost of disposing of one CRT monitors would be about 20$. Subsidizing half the recycling cost (case b) in the situation of a full ban, yields the best recycling results with over 60% recycling rate and no environmental damage; but it also costs the most. (from Sustainable solution for E-waste, p.7)

But as it had been mentioned above, e-waste is not only hazardous materials that are very dangerous for environment and human's health, it also includes various precious and semi-precious materials that can be recovered from the e-waste and be used for industrial purposes again. According to the report of Stevels, Ram and Deckers, in recycling industry e-waste may have the following classification: e-waste items with high percentage of hazardous toxic materials (lead and mercury) and with low maintenance of valuable materials, and those which have high potential to be recycled for precious and semi-precious materials and for hazardous materials as well. (from Take-back of discarded…

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