Thirty or forty years ago, an average family would have owned very few electronic items in their home. They might have owned a radio, television, refrigerator, vacuum cleaner and perhaps a record player. However, an average family in the modern society would own a significant number of electronic items such as computers, mobile phones, video recorders, music centres, home cinemas, as well as kitchen equipment like microwave ovens, washing machines, dishwashers... the list goes on.
In offices and shops, an equally rapid electronic revolution has taken place adding items such as computer systems, telecommunication systems, photocopiers, security systems... again the list goes on.
As a consequence there has been an increase in the number and volume of electronic items reaching the end of their useful life and becoming obsolete. These items are known as 'E-waste'. E-waste is of major concern due to the toxicity of some of the substances present in electronic items. Electronic equipment can contain toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium and even the plastics used in these items contain flame retardants.
E-waste cannot be disposed of in landfills due to its hazardous composition. Every year around 20 to 50 million tonnes of E-waste are generated worldwide causing serious risks to the environment and human health.