Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

E-waste recycling -- at whose expense?

Date:
December 19, 2012
Source:
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology
Summary:
Computers, tablets and mobile phones are all popular consumer products. The lifespan of these devices is usually short, between two to four years. One researcher visited Pakistan to see how these common electronic devices are dismantled and recycled. She investigated the harsh living conditions of people working with e-waste.

A man manually dismantling printers after which carcinogenic printer ink is left on the ground.
Credit: Image courtesy of KTH The Royal Institute of Technology

Computers, tablets and mobile phones are all popular consumer products. The lifespan of these devices is usually short, between two to four years. Shakila Umair, researcher at KTH, travelled to Pakistan to see how these common electronic devices are dismantled and recycled. She investigated the harsh living conditions of people working with e-waste.

Shakila Umair, researcher at KTH Centre for Sustainable Communications, made two field trips to Pakistan to study how e-waste is actually taken care of. She conducted a "social life cycle assessment" (s-LCA) on the social impacts of informal e-waste recycling in Pakistan.

"There are massive health and social problems connected to e-waste recycling in Pakistan. At the same time it is the only source of livelihood for thousands of people," says Shakila Umair.

The assessment showed that the informal processes have a number of negative social and environmental impacts. Workers manually dismantle old equipment, burn wires to get copper and dip old circuit boards in acid to extract precious metals such as gold and silver. They inhale toxic fumes every day and lack awareness of the health risks.

"Relatively small protective measures such as gloves and masks would easily make a big difference on the workers' health. But they cannot afford it themselves," says Shakila Umair.

Men, women and even children are working with e-waste up to twelve hours per day, six days a week, without social security or benefits. Their income is low, approximately 2.7 dollars per day.

There are international regulations preventing the transfer of hazardous waste, such as e-waste from developed to less developed countries. But there are loopholes which result in a growing illegal trade in e-waste. About 80% of all e-waste is shipped to developing countries where poor people recycle it manually at much lower cost than if it were recycled in more developed countries.

Recently, the regulations around e-waste have become stricter in both India and China. This means that more e-waste will end up in countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh with weaker legislation and authority control.

Shakila Umair does not want to see a stop of e-waste treatment in Pakistan, since it is the livelihood for thousands of poor people. But e-waste treatment needs to be formalised, at least partially. What she asks for is that both local authorities and global ICT manufacturers take responsibility for the health and social situation of the workers in the informal e-waste economy.

"Why not include the conditions of these 'distant workers' in the Corporate Social Responsibility policies of global ICT suppliers?" concludes Shakila Umair.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. "E-waste recycling -- at whose expense?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219082805.htm>.
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. (2012, December 19). E-waste recycling -- at whose expense?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219082805.htm
KTH The Royal Institute of Technology. "E-waste recycling -- at whose expense?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121219082805.htm (accessed April 23, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Is North Korea Planning Nuclear Test #4?

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) South Korean officials say North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test, but is Pyongyang just bluffing this time? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Falls for 4x4s at Beijing Auto Show

China Falls for 4x4s at Beijing Auto Show

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) The urban 4x4 is the latest must-have for Chinese drivers, whose conversion to the cult of the SUV is the talking point of this year's Beijing auto show. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

Lytro Introduces 'Illum,' A Professional Light-Field Camera

Newsy (Apr. 22, 2014) The light-field photography engineers at Lytro unveiled their next innovation: a professional DSLR-like camera called "Illum." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
3 Reasons Why Harley Davidson Is Selling Tons of Epic Hogs

3 Reasons Why Harley Davidson Is Selling Tons of Epic Hogs

TheStreet (Apr. 22, 2014) Sales of motorcycles have continued to ride back from the depths of hell known as the Great Recession. Excluding scooters, sales of motorcycles increased 3% in 2013. In units, however, at 465,000 sold last year, the total remained about 50% below the peak hit in 2007. Industry leader Harley Davidson’s shareholders have benefited both by the industry recovery and positive headlines emanating from the company. Belus Capital Advisors CEO Brian Sozzi takes you beyond the headlines of the motorcycle maker. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins