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E-Waste Science & Technology Curriculum. What is WEEE?. Lesson Objectives. Lesson Outline. What is E-Waste Where does it come from Where does it go How big is the problem Hazards Solutions. Anything with a circuit board or a battery!. What is E-Waste?.

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lesson outline
Lesson Outline
  • What is E-Waste
  • Where does it come from
  • Where does it go
  • How big is the problem
  • Hazards
  • Solutions
what is e waste

Anything with a circuit board or a battery!

What is E-Waste?
  • E-waste encompasses a broad and growing range of electronic devices
  • E-waste has become a problem of crisis proportions because of two primary characteristics:
    • E-Waste is generated in great quantities
    • E-Waste can be hazardous

Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia Feb 25, 2002by the Basal Action Network and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition

where does e waste come from
Where Does E-Waste Come From?

E-Waste is generated by three major sectors in the U.S.

  • Individuals and small businesses
  • Large businesses, government, and institutions
  • Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs)

PCs are major contributors because they rapidly become obsolete

Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia Feb 25, 2002by the Basal Action Network and the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition


Cadmium in batteries

Plastics in cables

Lead in solder joints

how much e waste generated
How Much E-Waste Generated
  • 500 million U.S. computers 1997-2007
    • 6.32 billion pounds plastics
    • 1.58 billion pounds lead
    • <13% reused or recycled
  • ~3 million tons to landfills/year (1997)
  • 130 million cell phones, batteries, chargers (65,000 tons/yr, 2005)
  • 6000 obsolete PCs/day in California
    • Potential $1 billion cleanup cost (over 5 years)
  • No estimates on CRT to HD, flat screen TVs

Photo courtesy of Recycling Council of Ontario


Photo courtesy of Recycling Council of Ontario

e waste hazards
E-Waste Hazards
  • Heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium)
  • Batteries containing cadmium
  • Cathode ray tubes with lead oxide & barium
  • Brominated flame-retardants on printed circuit boards, cables and plastic casing.
  • PVC-coated copper cables and plastic cases
  • Mercury in switches and flat screens
  • Poly Chlorinated Biphenyl’s (PCB’s) in older capacitors & transformers
what hazards does e waste present
What Hazards Does e-Waste Present?
  • Several pounds of toxic heavy metals in most computer systems
    • Lead and cadmium in circuit boards and CRT monitors
    • Mercury in switches and LCD monitors
    • Cadmium in computer batteries
  • Toxic metals can leach into groundwater when landfilled or improperly disposed of
what hazards does e waste present cont
What Hazards Does e-Waste Present? (cont.)
  • PCBs in older transformers and capacitors
  • Flame retardants on printed circuit boards, plastic casings, cables, and PVC cable insulation
  • Toxic dioxins and furans released by burning
hazardous waste
Hazardous Waste
  • Contains carcinogens…
  • Catches fire easily
  • Is reactive or unstable…
  • Corrodes metal containers


where does e waste go
Where Does E-Waste Go?
  • Storage
  • Landfill & Incineration
  • Reuse
  • Domestic Recycling
  • Prisons
  • Export to Developing Countries
where does e waste go1
Where Does E-Waste Go?
  • Majority of waste electronics disposed in landfills
    • Heavy metals may eventually leach into groundwater
    • CRTs banned from landfills in CA and MA
    • 50 - 80% of waste electronics collected for recycling in the U.S. is exported overseas
  • Most electronics recyclers export some portion of their waste electronics overseas
  • Frequent destinations: developing countries
landfill hazards
Landfill Hazards
  • Leaking landfills
  • Leaching into soil and groundwater
  • Chemical reactions
  • Vaporization
  • Uncontrolled fires
incineration hazards
Incineration Hazards
  • Dioxin formation
  • Heavy metal contamination
  • Contaminated slag, fly ash, and flue gases
fate of exported waste electronics
Fate of Exported Waste Electronics
  • Only most valuable components reclaimed; other potentially recyclable materials discarded
  • Components often physically dismantled by hand
  • Some components (chips, connectors) processed in acid
    • Handlers often lack proper protective equipment
    • Leftover liquid dumped into water sources
fate of exported waste electronics cont
Fate of Exported Waste Electronics (cont.)
  • Open burning of wires and other electronics components
    • Wire insulation contains PVC or flame retardants
  • Non-recyclable materials dumped along waterways, in open fields, etc.
    • Plastic that is impure, has unmatchable color, etc.
    • Leaded CRT glass
    • Burned or acid-treated circuit boards
is waste hazardous ca
Is Waste Hazardous (Ca)?
  • CA requires waste generators to determine
  • Generally, yes if
    • Toxic
    • Ignitable
    • Corrosive
    • Reactive
  • Special Procedures to determine determining LCD, plasma display hazards
classification of hazards
Classification of Hazards
  • Hazardous
  • Universal
  • Carcinogen
  • Toxic
e waste derivatives
E-Waste Derivatives
  • Discuss the issue of excess packaging. Get the kids thinking about why they have to have the toy that comes in three boxes instead of the one with a price sticker on it.
  • Batteries
recycling electronics
Recycling Electronics
  • Obsolete electronics have low resale value
  • Most contain hazardous substances
  • And some valuable metals
  • Recycling saves resources and the environment
hazardous waste solutions
Hazardous Waste Solutions
  • Waste Management: Minimize Impact
  • Waste Prevention: Minimize the Volume
    • Reduce waste and pollution
    • Reuse as many things as possible
    • Recycle and compost as much waste as possible
    • Chemically or biologically treat or incinerate
    • Bury what is left


integrated waste management
Integrated Waste Management
  • Source Reduction
  • Recycling
  • Waste combustion and landfilling

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Handbook for Reducing Solid Waste, www.epa.gov, 7-15-05

four basic principles
Four Basic Principles
  • Reduce
  • Reuse
  • Recycle
  • Respond