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Electronic waste, e-waste, e-scrap, or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) describes loosely discarded, surplus, obsolete, or broken electrical or electronic devices. Environmental groups claim that the informal processing of electronic waste in developing countries causes serious health and pollution problems. Some electronic scrap components, such as CRTs, contain contaminants such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, mercury, and brominated flame retardants. Activists claim that even in developed countries recycling and disposal of e-waste may involve significant risk to workers and communities and great care must be taken to avoid unsafe exposure in recycling operations and leaching of material such as heavy metals from landfills and incinerator ashes. Scrap industry and USA EPA officials agree Today the electronic waste recycling business is in all areas of the developed world a large and rapidly consolidating business.
Electronic waste processing systems have matured in recent years, following increased regulatory, public, and commercial scrutiny, and a commensurate increase in entrepreneurial interest. Part of this evolution has involved greater diversion of electronic waste from energy-intensive down cycling processes (e.g., conventional recycling), where equipment is reverted to a raw material form. This diversion is achieved through reuse and refurbishing. The environmental and social benefits of reuse include diminished demand for new products and virgin raw materials (with their own environmental issues); larger quantities of pure water and electricity for associated manufacturing; less packaging per unit; availability of technology to wider swaths of society due to greater affordability of products; and diminished use of landfills. Audiovisual components, televisions, VCRs stereo equipment mobile phones other handheld devices, and computer components contain valuable elements and substances suitable for reclamation, including lead, copper and gold.
One of the major challenges is recycling the printed circuit boards from the electronic wastes. The circuit boards contain such precious metals as gold, silver, platinum, etc. and such base metals as copper, iron, aluminum, etc. Conventional method employed is mechanical shredding and separation but the recycling efficiency is low. Alternative methods such as cryogenic decomposition have been studied for printed circuit board recycling, and some other methods are still under investigation.