With the strong development of science and technology, more and more electrical and electronic devices are produced, effectively serving the needs of people. With the strong development of science and technology, more and more electrical and electronic devices are produced, effectively serving the needs of people.


What is e-waste?

Electronic waste (e-waste) is a specific group of waste generated mainly from households and offices, offices… That is damaged electrical and electronic equipment that is no longer able to recover or recover. was not used due to obsolescence.

What does e-waste include?

  • Computer, TV is old, broken or outdated, no longer used
  • Old and broken household items
  • All kinds of electric, electronic toys, children’s toys with micro-controllers
  • Used batteries
  • Microchips, electronic boards from old electrical and electronic equipment
  • Old technology accessories (headphones, cables, battery chargers, USB, speakers, music players, remotes…)
  • Used or damaged other electrical and electronic appliances and equipment

E-waste is very common in daily life. With the rapid development of science and technology, e-waste is increasing rapidly. According to a report from the United Nations, each year the earth carries an additional 50 million tons of e-waste, of which only 20% is put into recycling. Without the intervention and restriction of e-waste from countries, the total amount of waste will double by 2050, about 120 million tons/year.


Harm to the environment

According to research by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (based in San Jose, California, USA) and scientists, the common heavy metals and chemicals in electronic waste are barium, copper, and nickel. ; beryllium (in motherboards), cadmium (in resistors and semiconductors); chromium (in floppy disk); lead (in batteries, computer monitors) or mercury (in fluorescent lamps, batteries, thermometers, some medical products) … These toxic substances can leach into soil, water sources, and disperse into air causes pollution.

When electronic devices are newly manufactured and in use, the substances in the devices are not harmful to humans. The storage of e-waste in scrap-collecting establishments does not guarantee storage conditions, under the influence of rain, sun, impact, etc. in the place where the waste is stored, harmful substances are exposed to the air. , is released into the environment in many ways such as mixing with rain water, small metal particles move gradually in the soil, seeping into groundwater. Some volatile metals and chemicals can evaporate under the influence of strong sunlight. On the other hand, metals and chemicals available in spoiled products can interact with each other and combine with air and water, causing negative chemical reactions, creating other harmful chemicals. to the environment and human health.

During the improper handling of e-waste, metals can break down into smaller molecules, bringing toxic chemicals into the air, rainwater and poisoning the whole area. Burning e-waste indiscriminately, causing harmful gases to be mixed into the air, causing air pollution, including dioxin waste, which is easy to cause birth defects and birth defects. The rudimentary incinerators also release industrial wastewater that contains a lot of heavy metals. Industrial wastewater and leachate from e-waste landfills can mix into groundwater, ponds, lakes and rivers, causing pollution. Water and air also gradually transport chemicals and heavy metals from e-waste from the area around the landfill to the wider environment.

Harm to human health

Currently, there are quite a few people who directly collect e-waste, often poor people and children who do not have enough knowledge about the harmful effects of substances in waste. They use bare hands or improper gloves to break the device into small pieces. This process can cause toxic metals and chemicals to enter the body, causing skin diseases, respiratory diseases, body poisoning, even cancer and cognitive decline.

Besides those who directly collect and process garbage, every person living around the electronic waste dump area, even each of us, can become victims of heavy metals and toxic substances in garbage. electronic waste. Soil, water, and air around the area where e-waste is stored or burned or disposed of can cause long-term pollution, and the plants and animals living in the area can be exposed, gradually affecting the environment. food chain and human health.

Mercury is very easy to enter the human body through eating or breathing and it will harm the brain, kidneys, reproductive system… In particular, mercury in the form of air is the most dangerous, the highest possibility of poisoning. They will be inhaled into the lungs through permeation of oxygen and mucous membranes, thereby entering the body faster. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tran Hong Con (former lecturer at Faculty of Chemistry, University of Natural Sciences, Vietnam National University, Hanoi) said: “Mercury like other metals, when entering the body, the ability to eliminate is very low. With mercury poisoning, we don’t expect it to be eliminated quickly, most of it accumulates in the bone marrow for a long time.”

For lead metal, just a small amount has a heavy effect on the body, it will tend to replace beneficial metals in the body such as displacing calcium in bones causing calcium deficiency, bone decay. , or replace iron in the blood… disrupts biochemical reactions, causing rickets or growth retardation in children…

When exposed to zinc, the patient will have symptoms such as vomiting or intestinal bleeding, decreased levels of natural reflexes and sometimes paralysis.

When the body is infected with cadmium, it will lead to osteoporosis, anemia, liver and kidney failure, even cancer such as lung cancer, increasing the risk of malformations in the fetus during pregnancy…

It can be said that e-waste poses many potential risks to the environment and human health and life. This type of waste needs more attention from the authorities to be able to handle it more thoroughly. On the other hand, each citizen also needs to raise the sense of responsibility in garbage classification; properly stored and used to prolong the life of electronic products in order to reduce e-waste into the environment.

E-waste treatment: The key to environmental protection

According to the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), the amount of e-waste is growing three times faster than the world’s population and 13% faster than the world’s GDP over the past five years. Proper collection and recycling of e-waste is key to protecting the environment and reducing climate-damaging emissions.

In 2019, Asia, the largest and most populous continent, generated the most e-waste. Europe has the highest rate of e-waste per capita, almost three times that of Asia. But Europe has the highest rate of waste collection and recycling.

In 2019, GESP found that 17.4% of e-waste collected and recycled properly prevented 15 million tons of CO2 equivalent from being released into the environment.


Since 2014, the number of countries adopting e-waste policies or regulations has only increased from 61 to 78, out of a total of 193 UN member states. While this is a positive trend, it is still far from the ITU’s goal of raising the proportion of countries with e-waste laws to 50%.

India is the only country in South Asia to draft a bill on e-waste, but collection remains weak.

In the US, some cities such as New York or Washington DC, laws require manufacturers themselves to recall their products through centralized recycling collection points or hire third-party companies. in charge and people just need to transport equipment to these centralized locations.

Businesses in the US and Europe are encouraged to extend the lifecycle of their IT equipment to 3 years or longer; better use of security measures and data handling so that IT products that are no longer in use can be donated to places in need; Be responsible for discarded old electronic equipment by taking it to the appropriate recycling collection points. Electronic equipment manufacturers are required to develop old product recall programs and produce replacement parts for the products they supply.

In Japan, a law on household appliance recycling is in effect for products including televisions, refrigerators, washers, dryers and air conditioners, etc., requiring the appliance manufacturer itself to be responsible for Recycle old broken equipment. This means that companies have to set up or hire processing recycling plants. The collection and transportation of these devices to the recycling plant is the responsibility of the product distributors. However, the consumer is responsible for paying the costs of the two jobs mentioned above.

The household appliance manufacturing process in Japan also has strict legal requirements for the percentage of recyclable resources. A television must be designed to ensure that more than 50% of the materials of its total weight are recyclable. This ratio in refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners can reach 60% to 70%.

The Singapore government encourages manufacturers, distributors, and shops selling electronic devices to set up e-waste collection channels such as placing e-waste collection bins at their warehouses and stores.

The country has also developed regulations on the “E-waste management system” and will be mandatory from 2021. Accordingly, e-waste generators must commit that their products will be collected and recycled. Large corporate retail chains must have second-hand collection points. In addition, they also have to pay an environmental fee to recycling companies to support the budget for recycling services.

A report backed by research from the European Union (EU) says the recovery of rare materials from e-waste is a security requirement for Europe and should be legislated.

According to the EU-funded CEWASTE report, critical raw materials – including gold, silver and cobalt in many electronics – can be recycled and reused. This will protect the supply of raw materials for consumer electronics and even Europe’s defense industry.

Even these rare materials are essential for wind turbines and electric cars. They therefore play an important role in helping countries meet climate protection goals and ensure competitiveness in manufacturing.

However, the report notes that while supplies of these essential materials are vulnerable to geopolitical fluctuations, Europe is still too dependent on foreign supplies with recycling rates “close to equals 0”.

According to the report, the low and volatile prices of many of these raw materials make recycling them often seen as too costly for businesses.

The report calls for the development of regulatory requirements for the recycling and reuse of critical raw materials, financial incentives to support the industry, and increased control over the amount of e-waste that is exported. leave the EU.

The report highlights some types of e-waste that have large enough raw materials to be recovered. These include printed circuit board materials from discarded electrical equipment; batteries from e-waste and scrap cars; iron boron neodymium magnets from hard drives and motors of electric bicycles, scooters and scrap cars; and fluorescent powder from cathode ray tubes and lamps in television sets and displays.

It is the rapid increase of e-waste that creates great pressures on the environment and health, and shows the urgency to combine the fourth industrial revolution with the circular economy.

The fourth industrial revolution will either promote a new circular economy approach or it will further deplete resources with a new wave of pollution. That is why solving the problem of e-waste is being considered an important task for global organizations such as ISWA, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the International Labor Organization (ITU), the International Labor Organization (ITU), the International Labor Organization (ITU). ILO), United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)… In 2018, ITU set a goal to increase e-waste recycling from 17% to 30% by 2023. However, this is a very difficult goal to achieve in practice.

Despite many barriers, the circular economy for the electronics industry is opening up new opportunities worth nearly $60 billion, mainly in terms of the value of iron, copper and gold that can be recovered from electronic waste.

Thien Nam Building collects and shares