Title: The Environmental and Health Impact of Technological Innovation in Mobile Phones on the Informal E-waste Recycling Sector in Ghana
Language: input.forms.value-pairs.iso-languages.en
Authors: Aigner, Theresa Marie 
Qualification level: Diploma
Advisor: Salhofer, Stefan 
Issue Date: 2022
Aigner, T. M. (2022). The Environmental and Health Impact of Technological Innovation in Mobile Phones on the Informal E-waste Recycling Sector in Ghana [Master Thesis, Technische Universität Wien]. reposiTUm. https://doi.org/10.34726/hss.2022.103443
Number of Pages: 85
Qualification level: Diploma
Global e-waste generation is todays’ fastest growing waste stream with end-of-life phones representing one of the most rapidly expanding fractions. However, the recycling rate of phones amounts to approximately 5-10%, thus even underscoring the global e-waste recycling rate of roughly 17.4%. An estimated 7-20% of e-waste is exported to middle- or low-income countries including Ghana, which constitutes a large African e-waste hub, where end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment is primarily managed by the informal sector. Since hazardous components in waste phones represent a significant risk to human health and the environment particularly when managed with improper practices, analysis of changed material composition with technological advancement in phones is imperative to understand the development of phones’ harmful impact. Therefore, this work firstly analyses the material composition of an exemplary basic mobile phone and smartphone. Secondly, informal practices employed for waste phone recycling in Ghana are identified. To be specific, upfront the most valuable fraction, being the printed circuit board (PCB) is extracted followed by open dumping or open burning of the remainder. As a third step, open combustion reactions and leaching behaviour are elaborated for elements identified to vary in concentration for the two mobile phone types excluding PBCs. Consequently, analysis of adverse repercussions on human health and the environment as well as findings from toxicological evaluations with USEtox from existing publications allow for conclusions about changing impacts. As a result, Nickel in phones is identified particularly relevant for eco-toxicity considerations but also significant in terms of human health. However, when considering NiMH and Li-ion battery application in exemplary basic mobile phones and smartphones respectively, Ni concentration decreases with technological advancement. Chromium application, which is identified to be of significant concern to human health, augmented in smartphones compared to basic mobile phones. As Chromium toxicity is primarily attributable to hexavalent Chromium, conclusions about altered effects attributable to Chromium application remain difficult, owing to a lack in data distinguishing between oxidation states. Moreover, Zink exhibiting significant environmental peril, is found at higher concentrations in smartphones. Concludingly, changes in material composition of phones matter for environmental and health impact considerations.
Keywords: waste mobile phones; informal recycling; human health impact; environmental impact
URI: https://doi.org/10.34726/hss.2022.103443
DOI: 10.34726/hss.2022.103443
Library ID: AC16557606
Organisation: E017 - TU Wien Academy 
Publication Type: Thesis
Appears in Collections:Thesis

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