Introduction to E-Waste Problem

Introduction to E-Waste Problem

Definition of E-Waste

Electronic waste refers to the trash which is generated from broken, surplus and obsolete electronic devices. E-waste is created after discarding of an electronic product probably when the useful life ends. A large quantity of electronic waste is being produced every minute due to the swift expansion of technology. Electronic waste is mainly derived from discarded computers, television sets, refrigerators, mobile phones as well as office and electronic entertainment devices.


What Makes E-Waste So Bad

Electronic waste products are hazardous because it comprises a list of chemicals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, brominated flame retardants and beryllium that are harmful to both people and the surrounding. Poor mishandling during disposal of electronic wastes leads to the chemicals ending up in water, air, and soil (Premalatha et al. 1630). The worst thing when it comes to handling and disposing of electronic wastes is that the substances are sometimes illegally exported to countries which do not have laws on how to manage. Once the waste is dumped in countries, valuable materials are recovered although in unsafe working conditions.



E-Waste in Guiyu City

Guiyu City which is in China is termed as the worlds e-waste capital. For instance, Guiyu city employs more than 150 000 E-waste recyclers, dis-assemblers as well as salvage workers toiling through sixteen hours a day while tearing apart waste computers together with other electronic devices (Wenqing et al. 87). The employees work in recapturing any metals or other valuable parts which can be sold or even re-used. By using their hand, the labors thoroughly reduce each equipment piece to the smallest parts. The equipment pieces are then taken to ‘specialists,’ laborers who are keen to striping wires for the contained copper or even melting of lead solder from the circuit panels.

The workers use nascent methods which leave them unprotected to environmental dangers. For instance, circuit boards, as well as other computer components, are individually burned over fires for extraction of metals. Thus, the casting processes release large quantities of poisonous gases to the atmosphere. Plastic is graded according to their quality and other parts burned for separating of plastic from scrap metals. After the full dismembering, any of the residual combustibles are left burning in open fires which leads to filling of the atmosphere with pungent plastic stench, paint, and rubber.

Environmental and Health Impacts of E-Waste

The environmental and health side effects of e-waste are incredibly harmful because the air cannot be safe for breathing nor is the water suitable for drinking. E-waste causes health problems due to the presence of lead and other poisonous metals in human blood (Song et al. 457). In Guiyu City things are worse for the residents because of the toxic air and unsafe drinking water. For instance, Guiyu has the peak level of carcinogenic dioxins all over the world, and miscarriage rates are six times likely to happen as well as seven out of ten kids are conceived with 50% higher lead rates compared to children born in other parts of the world (McAllister, p.76). The Guiyu workers are impoverished migrant children and laborer’s living and working under similar dirty conditions polluted by toxic effluence and heavy metals. For instance, the underground water in Guiyu City is undrinkable because rivers are black, choked and choking with industrial products. According to Kevin Brigden from the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, the flows from the region are leached with acidic baths. Kevin indicated that the water is so acidic such that it is powerful enough for disintegrating a penny after some few hours.

Economic Rationale for E-Waste

The financial incentives established by strict, unenforced and non-existent rules in emerging countries, as well as the simplicity of open trade which has resulted due to globalization, makes recyclers to export electronic waste. For instance, the rate of discarded electronic parts gives an incentive for destitute citizens who move to Guiyu from other regions and work in producing e-waste. To the migrants working in Guiyu City, it is better for them since they earn a living through melting lead solder off circuit boards. According to Xiao Li one of the migrants, life is better in Guiyu City compared to his remote village of Sichuan where residents depend on farming for livelihood (Sthiannopkao et al. 1151). However, Xiao is probably wrong. According to research done by Professor Huo Xia of Shantou University Medical College where she analyzed one hundred and sixty-five youngsters for lead concentration in their blood system, eighty-two percent of the youngsters had blood lead levels above one hundred and which is indicated dangerous by international health specialists (Greenpeace, para.6). For instance, high lead levels in children impact IQ and nervous development. The highest lead concentrations were found in children whose parentages worked in factories dealing with circuit boards. Else, a different report from Shantou Medical University Hospital found incidences of headaches, skin damages, nausea, duodenal ulcers, chronic gastritis, and vertigo, particularly among the migrants recycling plastic and circuit boards. Besides, e-waste laborer’s in Guiyu City have high toxic flame retards inside their bodies.

Cleanup Efforts in Guiyu City

Conditions have changed due to the efforts by the central government in cracking down and enforcing the permanent e-waste import ban. The aims of activist groups and increased awareness has led to the local government establishing steps for improving environmental conditions. For instance, Guiyu City has developed a clean and healthy surrounding since the tough measures on electronic wastes disposal came into force in 2013 (Lu et al. 8). Through enacting of strict measures and regulations, the war was declared on the dismantling of electronic waste, until all workshops were transferred to the industrial region and transformed into ecologically friendly outfits. In the 2012 Guiyu was dwelling place for more than five thousand small studios (Zheng et al., para.4). Nevertheless, the workshops nowadays host about one thousand and four hundred who have consolidated to forming twenty-nine joint-venture firms which are situated in the new industrial zone.

Guiyu recently processes about four hundred tons of discarded e-waste annually. Nevertheless, a system of covering the whole recycling process has been established which includes keeping waste records entering the City to dissecting and the last re-sales. Recently, the volume of E-waste has increased in China due to the growing financial strength that has improved demand for electrical appliances as citizens upgrade old products or replace (Heacock. 132). However, the central government has enabled e-waste businesses through the improvement of rules and policies for regulating their increase and protecting the surrounding. Consequently, the government has dispensed special procedures for boosting proper, certified recycling as well as dismantling of businesses.

Relation of E-Waste Problem to Iceberg Model

The iceberg model refers to the systems of a thinking tool which is designed for helping individuals or a group in discovering the behavior patterns, supporting structures and mental models underlying a particular event. The below-developed system is a relationship between the iceberg model and the e-waste problem.

From the diagram above the government is the significant moderating variable in the e-waste problem management. The model shows that there is a low level of awareness in the concept of e-waste management as well as lacking knowledge of possible outcomes for a formal disposal exercise in many countries. Therefore, many of the individuals are inexperienced in the probable ways of pursuing sustainable environmentally friendly behaviors.

Moreover, the infrastructural factor facilitates transforming of subjective and attitude norms into intentions. Therefore, to encourage consumer participation in formal e-waste problem the government has to provide adequate and functional managed infrastructure located near the community such that household consumers can access it. The factors and variables point to the fact that many issues should be addressed in government e-waste managing together with the appropriate stakeholders. Therefore, it is evident that ecologically e-waste sound managing through a proper gathering and disposal network require mindful involvement of consumers, government regulators, and community.

Causal Loop Diagram for e-waste management


The solution to e-waste problems is that major electronic firms should stop the use of hazardous chemicals to ensure that products are more accessible or safer for recycling. Therefore, all firms should be accountable for their products and move old materials for re-using, recycle or dispose of. First, re-using involves regifting, donating or selling instead of tossing out electronic equipment’s.  The other solution to dealing with e-waste is through the repair. People mostly throw out and replace broken electronics instead of getting the material to be repaired (Kiddee et al., p.1246).  Else, reducing is another most natural way of solving the e-waste crisis. Companies are coming up with new products such as Apple with its iPhone. For instance, new products function and look better compared to their predecessors although innovation comes at a price. Therefore, instead of buying flashy gadgets one should stick to what he/she has and take care of the electronics which ensures that they last longer. Reducing leads to saving money since there is no regular replacement (Sthiannopkao 1149). The last solution is recycling which is very efficient in dealing with e-waste when done correctly. For instance, many communities have e-waste recycling events and drop-off depots which handle such materials.



Works Cited

Greenpeace (2017). Guiyu: An E-waste Nightmare. Retrieved from

Heacock, Michelle, Carol Bain Kelly, and William A. Suk. “E-waste: the growing global problem and next steps.” Reviews on environmental health 31.1 (2016): 131-135.

Kiddee, Peeranart, Ravi Naidu, and Ming H. Wong. “Electronic waste management approaches An overview.” Waste management 33.5 (2013): 1237-1250.

Lu, Chenyu, et al. “An overview of e-waste management in China.” Journal of Material Cycles and Waste Management17.1 (2015): 1-12.

McAllister, Lucy. “The Human and Environmental Effects of E-Waste.” Population Reference Bureau (2013).

Ni, Wenqing, et al. “Hair mercury concentrations and associated factors in an electronic waste recycling area, Guiyu, China.” Environmental Research 128 (2014): 84-91.

Premalatha, M., et al. “The generation, impact, and management of e-waste: State of the art.” Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology 44.14 (2014): 1577-1678.

Song, Qingbin, and Jinhui Li. “A review on human health consequences of metals exposure to e-waste in China.” Environmental Pollution 196 (2015): 450-461.

Sthiannopkao, Suthipong, and Ming Hung Wong. “Handling e-waste in developed and developing countries: Initiatives, practices, and consequences.” The science of the Total Environment 463 (2013): 1147-1153.

Zheng Jinran & Qiu Quanlin (2016). Government Moves to Tackle E-waste Pollution. Retrieved from