Extensive utilization of electric and electronic equipment in a wide range of applications has resulted in the generation of huge volumes of electronic waste (e-waste) globally. Highly complex e-waste can contain metals, polymers and ceramics along with several hazardous and toxic constituents. There are presently no standard approaches for handling, dismantling, and the processing of e-waste to recover valuable resources. Inappropriate and unsafe practices produce additional hazardous compounds and highly toxic emissions as well. This chapter presents an overview of the environmental impact of processing e-waste with specific focus on toxic elements present initially in a variety of e-waste as well as hazardous compounds generated during e-waste processing. Hazardous constituents/ and contaminants were classified in three categories: primary contaminants, secondary contaminants, and tertiary contaminants. Primary contaminants represent hazardous substances present initially within various types of e-waste; these include heavy metals such as lead, mercury, nickel and cadmium, flame retardants presents in polymers etc. Secondary contaminants such as spent acids, volatile/toxic compounds, PAHs are the by-products or waste residues produced after inappropriate processing of e-waste and the tertiary contaminants include leftover reagents or compounds used during processing. A detailed report is presented on the environmental impact of processing e-waste and the detrimental impact on soil contamination, vegetation degradation, water and air quality along with implications for human health. Challenges and opportunities associated with appropriate e-waste management are also discussed.
Part of the book: E-Waste in Transition