130 million mobile phones and an almost equal number of other electronic devices such as MP3 players and gaming consoles became obsolete in 2005. A report by Basal Action Network (BAN), a Seattle-based organization, states that 50-80% of the e-waste generated in the United States is transported to developing nations for disassembly and recycling with methods that are not acceptable in the United States standards (Herat, 2007).
Very few people are aware that the electronic equipment contains more than 1000 harmful chemicals like lead, mercury, PCBS and other toxic substances that pollute air, soil and ground water (Baulch, 2002). Unawareness and negligence have been evident in many countries in the way people disassemble these electronic wastes in open spaces instead of disposing of them safely. However, at least some of the countries such as those in the European Union have recognized the potential harmful results of these improper disposal management practices, and these countries are in the process of implementing laws and policies that ensure safe disposal of e-waste (Canning, 2006; Ladou & Lovegrove, 2008).
There have been extensive research and studies on various dimensions related to e-waste. The areas of study include but not limited to consequences for the environment and health, problems with improper disposal in and out of countries, need for regulations, and better management of e-waste materials. It is imperative to consider the health and environmental effects before discussing other issues because improper management of electronic waste leads to pollution of the air, soil and water. This has been observed in various studies.
2.1 Sources of E-waste
According to UNEP's "E-waste Management (2006) there are three primary sources of e-waste:
1. Individual households and small businesses: White goods such as refrigerators and washing machines form the largest part of e-waste in terms of weight in households followed by television and personal computers (E-waste Management, 2006).
2. Large businesses, educational institutions and governments: Office devices such as photocopiers, fax machines, printers, and computers form the most part of e-waste from this category (E-waste Management, 2006).
3. Original equipment manufacturers: manufacturers generate e-waste at various levels and in different forms such as defective components or products of sub-optimal quality, waste along upstream supply chain, and waste from product recovery and refurbishing operations (E-waste Management, 2006).
In 2000, of the 2,214,400 tons of generated e-waste, 859,000 were video products, 348,200 tons were audio products and 96,900 tons were information products (Kate, 2006). According to the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), starting from 2005, approximately 130