[Mitigation] Pollution from E-wastes

As we have shared in our previous post, there is a NEED to mitigate the e-waste problem. In this post, I will share with you what has been done in Singapore to alleviate the e-waste situation, followed by what we can do.

What has been done?

In March 2019, it has been mandated by Singapore’s Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) for manufacturers of large household appliances — including refrigerators, air-conditioners, washing machines —  to collect at least 60 per cent (in weight) of the appliances they supply to the market each year for recycling. Similarly, manufacturers for smaller consumer electronics such as lamps, portable batteries, and info-communication technology (ICT) equipment are required to collect at least 20% (Choo, 2019).

Virogreen e-waste collection bins

This has encouraged companies to form partnerships with recycling facilities to increase the ease of recycling by consumers. For example, telco M1 has partnered with recycling firm Virogreen to set up e-waste collection bins in malls.

Moving forward, Singapore will introduce regulatory measures to ensure that electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) is managed effectively and efficiently in Singapore. An e-waste management system will be established by 2021 (NEA, 2018). An overview of the system can be seen in the infographic below:

To find out the specific details and workings of the system, see here.

What can we, as consumers, do?

  • Take good care of your electronics

With good care, you will be able to maintain the condition and lifespan of your electronics. This way, changes or replacement will be less frequent, and hence, less need for you to make new purchases, as well as dispose of unusable goods.

  • Buy only what you need

The best way to resolve this e-waste problem is from our consumption. Reducing consumption is the most effective way to alleviate e-waste and its related environmental problem. Before making a purchase, ask yourself “Do I really need this?”. Buy only things that are necessary. This way, by reducing our consumption and carbon footprint, we can all play a part to nurse our Earth back to health.

  • Donate your unwanted, but usable items

As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. As such, instead of discarding what you deem as ‘outdated’ and ‘unwanted’, consider donating it. Perhaps it could be of use to others!

  • Recycle, not dispose

I have said this before but recycling is the way to go. We surely do not want the leakage of harmful substances into our waterways or atmosphere. In Singapore, there are several e-waste recycling programmes such as StarHub’s RENEW (REcycling Nation’s Electronic Waste), ReCYCLE: Singtel x SingPost E-Waste Recycling Programme, IKEA’s Light Bulb Recycling Programme and more. Alternatively, you may drop off your e-waste at these designated recycling points.

Adapted from Geneco (2019) & Towards Zero Waste (2020).



Choo, C. (2019 September 3). Trash Talk: A toxic trash pile grows when gadgets become waste — in a year or less. TODAYONLINE. https://www.todayonline.com/features/trash-talk-gadgets-designed-become-waste-year-or-less-toxic-trash-pile-grows

Geneco. (2019, September 25). Top Tips On Reducing The Electronic Waste Pollution In Singapore. https://blog.geneco.sg/knowledge/top-tips-on-reducing-the-electronic-waste-pollution-in-singapore

NEA. (2018 March 6). NEA To Implement E-waste Management System For Singapore By 2021. https://www.nea.gov.sg/media/news/news/index/nea-to-implement-e-waste-management-system-for-singapore-by-2021

Towards Zero Waste. (2020 September 15). Electronic Waste. https://www.towardszerowaste.gov.sg/ewaste/#:~:text=Singapore%20generates%20about%2060%2C000%20tonnes,technologies%20constantly%20replacing%20old%20ones.

Pollution from E-Wastes : Planned Obsolescence

Modern capitalism started in the mid 18th century and in itself, capitalism is neutral (Wood, 2017). This means that capitalism is not born with the intention to harm the environment. However, the industrial revolution came along the way, revamping the way the manufacturing industry operates and leveraged on the existing system of modern capitalism. Industrialists soon took over the merchants to become the drivers of economic growth. This came with its own set of issues. In 1925, the Phoebus Cartel was founded in Geneva. It existed to control the sale and manufacture of incandescent light bulbs. Light bulbs were made to last for 100 years, this meant reduced revenue for manufacturers. Hence, they came up with an agreement to limit the lifespan of lightbulbs, known as planned obsolescence, which was implemented in many other products we are using today. Planned obsolescence refers to the artificial shortening of a product lifespan, regardless of the resources and energy put into producing that product (Bulow, 1986). This formed the current extractive industrial model of “Take, Make, Use and Throw” (Ellen MacArther Foundation, n.d.), which results in the waste problem many countries are facing today. To aggravate this issue, people around the world are sourcing for products with the best quality at the lowest costs in the pursuit of better standards of living. Have we ever stopped to ponder, how did these goods get so cheap? To lower the costs of production, manufacturers are resorting to harmful environmental practices such as illegal logging and unsustainable palm oil production, which in itself leads to other environmental issues like pollution.

Planned Obsolescence is the act of intentionally shortening the lifespan of a product with the aim of making customers replace it, whether physically or arbitrarily.

In the introduction, planned obsolescence was discussed. To recap, it refers to the act of intentionally shortening the lifespan of a product with the aim of making customers replace it, whether physically or arbitrarily. Manufacturers can design or plan to produce a printer which loses its functionality within a fixed period of time by using a programmed microchip embedded within it, making it cheaper to replace than to repair the printer. A phone with irreplaceable battery can force you to buy a new buy a phone even when everything else of the phone works fine. A light bulb made to last for more than 100 years, have to be replaced frequently now. These are all workings of planned obsolescence, forcing mankind to produce more waste so that the capitalist economy can continue to prosper. Do you feel short-changed? What can we as consumers do about it?

Valuable materials like circuit boards and plastic are separated from the old electronics, processed and resold to manufacturers as new input. While unusable parts of the old electronics, like laptop screens, are left lying on open ground. In countries with lax environmental regulation and enforcement, this quickly becomes a problem. Laptop screens contain toxic chemicals like mercury, that can seep into the groundwater or get washed into the nearby water bodies during rain. Pieces of evidence have shown that the local physical environment in Guiyu, China, one of the largest e-waste recycling location, is heavily polluted. The locals in Guiyu are suffering because of the E-waste generated by others all over the world. E-waste recycling is not the panacea for the E-waste problem, and having someone else pay for our desire for a new gadget is intolerable. Hence, it is time to rethink our consumption pattern.

Before you get your next smartphone, think again, do you really need it?
Also, can E-waste recycling really solve our E-waste problem when only 20% of it gets recycled (Vaute, 2018)?
Can Daisy the recycling robot invented by Apple Inc, be the solution to our E-waste problem (CNET, 2019)?

Even though corporations are alleged to be causing the E-waste problem, with aggressive marketing strategies, planning obsolescence on their phones, some companies in the telecommunication and electronics industry are initiating e-waste collection programmes as part of their corporate social responsibility program. Examples of such companies are StarHub (RENEW, n.d.) and HP (HP, n.d.).

Find out more about this topic here:

  1. Planned Obsolescence: Apple Is Not The Only Culprit. Adam Sarhan. Dec 22, 2017. Click here!
  2. Planned Obsolescence documentary.


Wood, E. M. (2017). The origin of capitalism: A longer view. London: Verso.

Bulow, J. (1986). An Economic Theory of Planned Obsolescence. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 101 (4), 729. doi:10.2307/1884176

Ellen MacArther Foundation (n.d), Concept: What is a circular economy? A framework for an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design. Retrieved from: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/concept

Vaute, V. (2018). Recycling Is Not The Answer To The E-Waste Crisis. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/vianneyvaute/2018/10/29/recycling-is-not-the-answer-to-the-e-waste-crisis/#482549797381

CNET. (2019). Apple wants to share its Daisy robot tech for recycling iPhones. Retrieved from: https://www.cnet.com/videos/apple-wants-to-share-its-daisy-robot-tech-for-recycling-iphones/

RENEW. (n.d.). REcycling the Nation’s Electronic Waste. Retrieved from: https://www.starhub.com/about-us/corporate-sustainability/recycling-nations-electronic-waste.html

HP (n.d.). Tech Takes:\ Impact on E-waste. Retrieved from: https://store.hp.com/app/tech-takes/impact-of-e-waste

Pollution from E-wastes : E-waste Problem in Singapore

It is update time! So, in our previous posts, we shared about e-wastes, as well as how it leads to pollution. Today, we will be sharing about the extent of the e-waste problem in Singapore.

Extent of the problem

According to a National Environmental Agency study, it founded that Singapore generates 60,000 tonnes of e-waste a year (NEA, 2018). This is equivalent to the discard of 70 mobile phones by each individual. Such high rates of disposal can be linked to our high spending power, as well as the constant invents of new technologies and products (Towards Zero Waste, 2020). Indeed, experts have cautioned that the rollout of fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks could spell the demise of 4G gadgets and lead to mass disposal.

While the replacement of electronic products is not wrong as most products can be refurbished, repaired or recycled, the problem arises when unwanted electronic products are discarded – as in most cases of Singapore. This is because e-waste contains harmful substances such as cadmium and lead which pose as a threat to our health and the environment when disposed at landfills or when incinerated (Towards Zero Waste, 2020). (See our previous post for a detailed explanation).

Teh (2019) notes from a survey of 347 youths aged 18 to 25 that only one in 10 young Singaporeans recycle their e-waste. Of those who attempt to recycle, 34.1% do it wrongly. This is a concerning trend that should be reversed, especially in a land-scarce Singapore. As articulated by the then-Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, “We should recycle right, and save and extend the lifespan of Semakau by putting just a little bit into the landfill. Semakau is a very expensive resource, and if we need to build a new Semakau, that will cost us billions of dollars,”. More than environmental considerations, there are also economic implications for tiny Singapore when a large number of wastes, including e-waste, are constantly generated. Hence, there is a strong and urgent need to improve our waste reduction and recycling efforts.

Check back in next week to find out what we can do or have done to mitigate this issue in our next post!



Choo, C. (2019 September 3). Trash Talk: A toxic trash pile grows when gadgets become waste — in a year or less. TODAYONLINE. https://www.todayonline.com/features/trash-talk-gadgets-designed-become-waste-year-or-less-toxic-trash-pile-grows

NEA. (2018, March 6). NEA To Implement E-waste Management System For Singapore By 2021. https://www.nea.gov.sg/media/news/news/index/nea-to-implement-e-waste-management-system-for-singapore-by-2021

Teh, C. (2019, March 4). Only one in 10 young Singaporeans recycles electronic waste: Survey https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/only-one-in-10-young-singaporeans-recycle-electronic-waste-survey

Towards Zero Waste. (2020 September 15). Electronic Waste. https://www.towardszerowaste.gov.sg/ewaste/#:~:text=Singapore%20generates%20about%2060%2C000%20tonnes,technologies%20constantly%20replacing%20old%20ones.

Pollution from E-Wastes

Hello! Welcome back to another post on E-Wastes. From the previous post, we have discussed the various types of E-waste. Now, this blog post will focus on how exactly does E-Waste pollute the earth. This can be discussed in two themes: how it is harmful to humans, as well as how it is harmful to the environment. Ultimately, the production and consumption of E-wastes contribute massively to Environmental Pollution.

How is it harmful to humans?

Health risks may result from direct contact with toxic materials that leach from e-waste, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Toxic minerals include lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants, or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). It is harmful when humans inhale the toxic fumes, and the environment with the accumulation of chemicals in soil, water, and food, which can ultimately affect the food that we eat. Studies have shown this global e-waste pollution has not only detrimental effects on the people that work with the e-waste but also the people that live around it. In fact, in developing countries, the risks are exceptionally high because some developed countries send their e-waste there. Because of this, a proper recycling process needs to be put in place to protect us and future generations, most especially those who are vulnerable to large dumps of e-wastes.

How is it harmful to the environment?

While above ground, modern electronics are safe to use and be around. However, most electronics contain some form of toxic materials, including beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead, which pose serious environmental risks to our soil, water, air, and wildlife. When e-waste gets buried at a landfill, it can dissolve in microscopic traces into sludge that permeates at the landfill. Eventually, these traces of toxic materials leach into the ground below the landfill. The more E-waste and metals at the landfill, the more of these trace toxic minerals get leached in the groundwater. The problem is that the amount of e-waste pollution is just massive, and all the trace amounts have ballooned over the years. That toxic water under the landfill doesn’t stop below the landfill. It continues to the groundwater and the sources to all the freshwater in the surrounding area. Not only is this bad for anyone using a natural well, but it hurts the nearby wildlife. That, in turn, causes the wildlife to get sick from lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other metal poisonings due to the high concentration of these minerals. Mentioned from above, this will also affect our food chain and the food that we eat, as we can get metal poisoning.

Heavy metals are the most persistent pollutants in the environment because of their resistance to decomposition in a natural condition (Ra et al., 2013). When heavy metal levels exceed from their permissible limits, they become toxic. Under certain environmental conditions, heavy metals might accumulate up to toxic concentration levels, and pose negative impacts not only in an environment but also on human health (He et al., 2017).

Pollutive Aspect?

  • Companies keep producing and manufacturing
  • Consumers keep buying! This is linked to the phenomenon ‘designed for the dump’ or Planned Obsolescence which we will talk about in our next post!


Gangwar, C., Choudhari, R., Chauhan, A., Kumar, A., Singh, A. and Tripathi, A. (2019). Assessment of air pollution caused by illegal e-waste burning to evaluate the human health risk. Environment International, 125, pp.191–199.

Pollution from E-wastes : The Big Picture

What is E-waste?

E-waste refers to all types of waste containing electrically powered components. It is short for e-Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) (Josh, 2015). The term is often used to describe electronic products that are unwanted, not working, and nearing or at the end of their “useful life.” Common electric products include computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines (Great Lakes Electronics Corporation, n.d.).

What are the types of E-waste?

Given the presence of a large number of e-wastes, there have been efforts in categorising e-wastes to facilitate disposal. The below highlights the types of e-waste, as well as examples.

  1. ICT and Telecommunications Equipment: laptops, PCs, telephones, mobile phones
  2. Office Electronics: calculators, photocopying equipment, electrical and electronic typewriters, telephones and fax machines
  3. Large Household Appliances: refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, air conditioner appliances
  4. Small Household Appliances: vacuum cleaners, irons, blenders, fryers
  5. Consumer Equipment: video and audio equipment, musical instruments
  6. Medical Equipment: all medical equipment with the exception of implants
  7. Toys leisure and sports equipment: electronic toys, models, sports equipment
  8. Monitoring devices: detectors, thermostats, laboratory equipment

Adapted from (Paul’s Rubbish, 2018; Marius Pedersen, n.d.)

Of course, these types and examples are non-exhaustive especially when new technology is constantly being invented. But given some ideas of what e-wastes are, check back in next week to read our post on how e-wastes causes environmental pollution!



Great Lakes Electronics Corporation. (n.d.). What is E-waste? Definition and Why It’s Important. https://www.ewaste1.com/what-is-e-waste/

Josh, J. (2015, August 27). Types of e – Waste. https://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/types-of-e-waste-1440681505-1

Marius Pedersen. (n.d.). E-waste collection and transport. https://www.mariuspedersen.cz/en/about-marius-pedersen/services/58.shtml

Paul’s Rubbish. (2018, July 23). 7 Types of E-Waste. https://www.paulsrubbish.com.au/7-types-e-waste/