E-waste As a Resource
Although it contains toxic elements that can be extremely damaging to individual health and the environment,
e-waste also contains materials that have economic value when extracted.
When proper extraction processes are used, e-waste can generate large volumes of the valuable fractions which are able to reintroduced into production streams. Proper processing also ensures that the extraction is done in a manner that retains the material’s integrity, improving the fraction’s resale value.
This is why environmentally sound dismantling and recycling processes are essential. They can be used to stimulate an economy based on recycling, thus creating jobs and economic returns as well as promoting resource conservation.
Unfortunately in developing countries, primitive processes that release dangerous toxins into the environment (ie burning, acid leaching, etc.) are often the only methods for extraction available today. Because e-waste contains these valuable materials, an informal economy has emerged providing a livelihood to many at the cost of their own health and the health of their communities. Additionally, these primitive processes reduce the quality and amount of the resources that can be extracted. These workers are not getting the highest return for their efforts.