How Does Electronic Waste Affect the Environment: Things We Can’t Afford to Ignore

How Does Electronic Waste Affect the Environment: Things We Can’t Afford to Ignore
keyKey Takeaways:
  • Understand the essential aspects of e-waste including what e-waste refers to, the types of e-devices causing e-waste, and its environmental impacts.
  • You must know the innovative methods to streamline e-waste management.
  • Improper e-waste management surges a need to adopt sustainable practices as well as proper e-waste disposal and recycling processes.

“Anything in excess is hazardous.” 

Though technology is turning towards good and people are promptly adopting the technological revolution, especially when it comes to electronic devices. Yet, we cannot afford to ignore the fact that rewards always come with responsibilities. 

The rapid increase in the consumption of electronic devices has been witnessed due to all the technological advancements, followed by the increase in the amount of e-waste generated as well. And the worst part hasn’t arrived yet. 

As per Statista, the e-waste generation worldwide in 2019 was 53.6M metric tons which took a jump and reached 59.4M metric tons in the year 2022 and are still projected to rise exponentially by 30% in 2030 (74.7M metric tons).

The figures are quite alarming. That’s why we are here to educate you on the negative effects of e-waste on the environment. This will help us move towards developing more sustainable practices. 

So, without any delay, let’s see how does electronic waste affect the environment.

Essentials About E-waste

Electronic waste, popularly named e-waste refers to any obsolete or discarded electronic device that has been of no use because of the technological advancements taking place at dizzying speed. 

This e-waste includes everything from old computers and cell phones to refrigerators, air conditioners, printers, scanners, cameras, medical equipment, and other household appliances. People tend to replace the older models when the new-advanced technology gets introduced in the market. Below is an example.

“Are you still watching movies on old VCR players? No, right? Those VCR players got replaced by DVD players and thereafter when the DVD players’ era ended, people preferred watching movies on Blu-ray players.”

This is how the tech world evolves and the old electronic equipment starts becoming obsolete. But the matter of concern here is many of these devices contain toxic chemicals that can harm the environment and human health if not disposed of correctly. 

To throw some light on the growing environmental concerns because of e-waste generation as well as poor e-waste management, UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) partnered with Kenyan poet Beatrice Kariuki who created a short compelling video of environmental risks due to e-waste.

Why it is Important to Know the Environmental Effects Caused by E-waste?

Here are some of the electronic waste statistical evidence that say why we should focus on the rising environmental effects caused by e-waste.

  1. The reports suggested by Global E-waste Monitor 2020 reflect that out of 53.6M metric tons of e-waste generated in 2019, only 9.3M metric tons i.e. 17% of it was recorded as being collected and recycled. 
  2. Global E-waste Monitor also acknowledged the fact that E-waste, also named as electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), is one of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world.
  3. The United Nations (UN) warned that because of the ongoing consumer demand for digital devices, there will be time that will lead to a “tsunami of e-waste” if e-waste is not handled efficiently. 
  4. Though amidst all these challenges coming in between, e-waste if handled appropriately, and with recycling methods if conducted sincerely, e-waste can offer an economic return worth over 62.5 Billion dollars every year.

Do You Know:

5.3 Billion mobile phones have been thrown away in the year 2022 as per the reports of the international waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) Forum. Scientists even suggested that these electronic devices should be mined for extracting precious metals instead of mining Mother Earth.

The figures mentioned above clearly showed improper e-waste management, which is one of the leading concerns because of its hazardous impact on the environment as well as on human health. Moving further with the article, we will list below the negative environmental effects of e-waste and the urge of conducting electronics recycling effectively.

Environmental Impacts of Electronic Waste

Electrical and electronic waste releases toxic chemicals and hazardous substances into the environment, which are not biodegradable and can pollute soil, air, water, and other living things. 

Environmental Impacts of Electronic Waste

Here are some of the ways where the rising e-waste disposal can significantly impact the environment. Have a look 

1. Soil and water contamination

When electronic waste is improperly disposed of it either goes into the landfills abruptly or is dumped illegally. Both of these are clearly not healthy environmental practices and cause potential harm to the underground water and soil. 

Electronic waste contains heavy metals and flame retardants which end up contaminating the underground water and the crops. When the soil and water get contaminated due to the presence of toxic heavy metals such as lead, mercury, lithium, barium, and cadmium, they become vulnerable to absorbing these toxins causing dangerous health hazards to mankind. 

Not just this, but the release of large and heavy particles from the burning, shredding, or dismantling of electronic waste gets quickly re-deposited into the groundwater and soil. And resultantly it starts adversely impacting the soil quality, leading to reduced plant growth, production of contaminated soil and potentially harming the ecosystem.

Water contains the major part of the planet Earth. Deposition of hazardous wastes into the water supplies like ponds, streams, and lakes causes severe acidification and toxification effects disturbing biodiversity. Acidification kills marine and freshwater organisms damaging the ecosystem where recovery is impossible.

Recommended: Give a good read on the ways to reduce e-waste so that you cannot reach a stage to bear the adverse environmental impacts caused by it.

2. Air pollution

Developing countries find it difficult to practice formal e-waste recycling procedures because of the costly operational expenses involved. Hence, they focus on practicing informal e-waste practices. 

Though informal e-waste recycling practices are successful in extracting valuable parts from e-waste, the way in which they are practiced or conducted causes harm to the workforce involved. The dismantling, shredding, or melting of materials involves the release of dust particles as well toxins such as dioxins into the air causing respiratory health issues to the surrounding mankind. 

Also,  for removing highly valuable raw materials like gold and silver, acids, desoldering, and other chemicals are used which release harmful fumes in areas resulting in severe respiratory and breathing issues. For getting copper from electronic devices, toxic e-waste materials are burned which releases fine particles that pollute the air and result in chronic diseases and cancers affecting human health badly.

The chronically polluted air results in damaging the water quality, soil, animal, and plant species. A real-life instance of this is scripted herewith:

“Because of the informal recycling hub in Guiyu, China, many of their residents exhibit substantial digestive, neurological, respiratory, and bone problems. 

In this region, the concentration of PBDEs in the air was 21.5 ng/m,3 140 times higher than in Hong Kong and the mass emission of PBDE, meanwhile, was between 82,207 and 188,118 tons/year.”

3. Climate Change

E-waste disposal contributes to climate change because of the several chemical substances released into the air when burned. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) are the principal toxic chemical substances that get released when any of the E-waste is burned. 

PBDE and PBBs are used as flame retardants in televisions, computers, and other electronic devices. At the time of disposal of PBDE and PBB, when it is burnt it releases CO2 into the air. 

The release of CO2 contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and changes in climatic conditions, which ultimately give rise to human-generated global warming. Even the manufacturing of electronic devices releases a large amount of CO2 into the atmosphere.

“The study once done says that in manufacturing every ton of CRT display products, 2.9M metric tons of CO2 gets released. It also says that if proper recycling takes place, only 10% of greenhouse gas gets emitted.”

Innovative Method to Streamline E-waste Management 

As said, responsible recycling of electronic waste and proper e-waste management should be focused effectively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and resultantly minimize the environmental effects.

And to sincerely carry out these practices, you will be in need of innovative and modern methods of undergoing your daily operations relating to electronic waste management and recycling processes. 

One of the innovative methods is adopting e-waste collection route optimization software like Upper as a modern way of carrying out recycling and e-waste management activities.

Here’s why you should get assisted by Upper:

  • With Upper, you can plan, and optimize multiple stops within a few clicks with leverage to adjust them as per your needs and preferences. 
  • You can set the service time, time window, and preferential pickups based on urgency to satisfy your clientele’s needs.
  • Maximize the number of waste collection pickups per route, per driver effectively reducing fuel consumption (by 40%) as well as transportation costs involved.
  • Schedule the routes in advance and assign them to drivers ensuring that all your pickups get completed within the determined timelines.
  • Swap the routes among the drivers, or reverse the routes entirely in case of any last-minute changes.
  • Interchange the assigned stops among the drivers in the case when one is not available.
  • Dispatch the routes in one-click no matter how many drivers you have.
  • Get detailed insights on your waste collection business along with measuring individual drivers’ performance with an on-the-spot report generation feature.

Get Your E-waste Collection Process a Boost With Upper

Use Upper & get over the never-ending waste collection pickups. Plan, schedule & optimize the routes in a way that you spend less time on the road still doubling up your pickups.


The process of extracting valuable materials from the end of life electronics in a way that those recycled materials can be reused in the manufacturing process of new electronic products. It involves shredding the electronic waste into small-tiny pieces that are placed in the new electronic appliances, shrinking the need for raw material extraction.

E-waste recycling is essential for several reasons, as stated below:

  • To get rid of toxic and harmful chemicals from negatively impacting the environment when leaching into the soil, water, and air.
  • It is crucial to recover valuable materials contained in e-waste before disposing of them.
  • It helps in reducing waste going into landfills.
  • Prevents air pollution from occurring at the time of manufacturing the new product.

Electronic waste when disposed of improperly and gets in contact with heat, it releases harmful substances into the air, polluting the atmosphere. Plus, these toxic materials seep into the land and underground water affecting both land and water animals. Resultantly, it contributes to environmental degradation and climatic change.

Here are some of the risk factors that may affect our environment.

  • Since e-waste is non-biodegradable in nature, it gets accumulated in the soil, water, and air, thus polluting the environment.
  • Secondly, such practices can also expose workers to high levels of contaminants.
  • It can lead to irreversible health effects, including cancers, miscarriages, neurological damage, or diminished IQs.

Adopting sustainable e-waste management practices, reducing the number of raw materials used, proper disposal of e-waste, and increasing the reuse by recycling electronic products are some of the ways through which we can reduce the environmental strain on e-waste.


Went through all the environmental effects?

Now it’s time to sincerely implement the steps towards mitigating these effects and adopt healthy sustainable practices along with adopting innovative methods for acquiring efficiency, effectiveness, and instant results. 

One such technological practice that can be adopted by waste management businesses or those who effectively handle e-waste is getting assisted with route planning and optimization software like Upper.

The route planner can help you plan, schedule and optimize your waste collection pickups within minutes, considering your driver preferences. On top of this, what if you even get to save transportation costs, fuel consumption, and carbon footprints? Awesome, right? Start your FREE trial today.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel is the founder and CEO of Upper Route Planner, a route planning and optimization software. With 28+ years of experience in the technology industry, Rakesh is a subject matter expert in building simple solutions for day-to-day problems. His ultimate goal with Upper Route Planner is to help delivery businesses eliminate on-field delivery challenges and simplify operations such as route planning, scheduling, dispatching, take a proof of delivery, manage drivers, real time tracking, customer notifications and more. He loves sharing his thoughts on eliminating delivery management challenges via blogs. Read more.