Document Type : REVIEW PAPER


1 School of Information Technology, Varsity College, Independent Institute of Education, Sandton, South Africa

2 Information Communication and Technology Services Department, Lupane State University, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe


The outcome of improper electronic waste management is an environmental and epidemiological catastrophe; therefore, its management has become crucial given the increase in e-waste generation. Global e-waste output eclipsed 52 million metric tonnes in 2020, growing at 3% per annum. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 12 highlights that only 20% of the generated e-waste was properly recycled, with the remainder indiscriminately disposed of. There has been considerable growth in publications on e-waste and the environment over the past few decades. This study provides an overview of the research landscape on the impact of e-waste on the environment using bibliometric analysis. VOSviewer software is used to visualise the current trends and the recent hotspots. It is observed that the research hotspots in the field are:  soil, health, environmental impact, recovery, electronic equipment, and waste electrical and electronic equipment. By tracing the evolutionary research pathway, it is clear that the research hotspots have shifted focus to e-waste generation, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, and circular economy. A total of 141 articles on e-waste and the environment published between 2003 and 2021 were selected for the study. The publication and citation analysis showed a steady increase in publications and citations. China dominates with a third of articles published by authors, followed by India and the United States. Developing countries contributed about 17% of total publications. The articles retrieved were cited 5290 times and had an h-index of 39. Finally, using network analysis techniques, four key themes are identified. The first theme relates to the strategies employed in recovering minerals from e-waste. The second theme focuses on the concentration levels of the heavy minerals found in e-waste. The third theme visualises the impact of e-waste on health, and finally, the fourth theme highlights the effects of e-waste on the environment. The study adds valuable insights to the body of literature in hazardous and toxic substances management. No studies were found chronicling the environmental effects of e-waste using bibliometric analysis. In light of the Sustainable Development Goals, further research needs to be undertaken, and these findings serve as a baseline for policymakers and scholars as more management strategies and policies are enacted. 

Graphical Abstract

A bibliometric analysis of the effects of electronic waste on the environment


  • The outcome of improper e-waste management is an environmental and epidemiological catastrophe; therefore, its management has become crucial given the increase in e-waste generation;
  • It is important to understand the development of the field and explore the environmental effects of improper e-waste management;
  • Research in the field has centred around four key themes;
  • These themes focus on strategies employed in recovering minerals from e-waste, the concentration levels of the heavy minerals found in e-waste, the impact of e-waste on health and the effects of e-waste on the environment.


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