Recycling and disposal of electronic waste: Health hazards and environmental impacts



Waste of electrical and electronic equipment is generated in enormous amountsaround the globe today, and has become a global environmental issue. This isbecause the e-waste contains a multitude of hazardous substances that may bereleased as the waste is handled and processed. However, the risks for humans andthe environment vary depending on how the e-waste is processed. Sometimes it istreated as general municipal solid waste, and is thus incinerated in incinerationfacilities or just put on landfills. Often, however, e-waste is recycled with the aimto take care of its hazardous components and/or to recover its valuable materials. Inmodern recycling facilities these two aims are usually combined, but during therecycling activities that are carried out by poor people in many developingcountries, the efforts are usually directed towards the valuable materials.Consequently, such activities may result in huge emissions of hazardouscompounds and thereby substantial risks for the recycling workers and theenvironment. This report, which was compiled for the Swedish EnvironmentalProtection Agency (Naturvårdsverket), summarizes and compares the risks thatmay arise during different end-of-life treatment processes for electronic waste.These include traditional waste handling (landfilling and incineration), recycling infacilities designed for its purpose, as well as the rudimentary recycling activitiesoccurring in many developing countries.Although the information in this report has been funded wholly or in part by theSwedish Environmental Protection Agency, it may not necessarily reflect the viewsof the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.


  • The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency

Publishing Date




  • English

Waste hierarchy

  • Recycling
  • Disposal

Waste type

  • E-Waste

Area of intervention

  • Health Impact

Groups audience

- Private group -

german cooperationFederal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Developmentsupported by The State Government of North Rhine-Westphalia