E-Waste Management In India

E-Waste Management In India
06 October 2020

E-Waste Management In India

In India, the quantity of “e-waste” or electronic waste has now become a major problem. Disposal of e-waste is an emerging global environmental and public health issue, as this waste has become the most rapidly growing segment of the formal municipal waste stream in the world. E-waste or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) are loosely discarded, surplus, obsolete, broken, electrical or electronic devices. In India, most of the waste electronic items are stored in households as people do not know how to discard them. This ever-increasing waste is very complex in nature and is also a rich source of metals such as gold, silver, and copper, which can be recovered and brought back into the production cycle. So e-waste trade and recycling alliances provide employment to many groups of people in India. Around 25,000 workers including children are involved in crude dismantling units in Delhi alone where 10,000–20,000 tonnes of e-waste is handled every year by bare hands. Improper dismantling and processing of e-waste render it perilous to human health and our ecosystem. Therefore, the need for proper e-waste management has been realized. It is necessary to review the public health risks and strategies to combat this growing menace.

E-waste management assumes greater significance not only due to the generation of our own waste but also the dumping of e-waste from the developed countries. Rag pickers and waste dealers found it easy to adapt to the new waste stream, resulting in a large number of new businesses focusing on the reuse of components or extraction of secondary raw materials. Some of the recycling processes are extremely harmful and have negative impacts on the worker’s health and environment.

Main Sources
  1. Imports
  2. PC retailers manufacture
  3. Government, Public and Private sectors discarding old devices
  4. Secondary market of old PCs and individual households
Existing Legislation
  1. Transboundary movement of e-waste covered under the basal convention.
  2. Hazardous waste management and handling rules.
Benefits
  1. The conversation of resources: Recycling recovers valuable materials from old electronics that can be used to make new products. As a result, we save energy, reduce pollution, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and save resources by extracting fewer raw materials from the earth.
  2. Elimination of health and environmental hazardous: The major benefits of e-waste recycling are the elimination of the health and environment hazards caused by the disposal of untreated e-waste. When e-waste finds its way into landfills such toxic metals seep out and contaminate the soil and water, causing health problems and polluting the atmosphere. Incinerating e-waste produces volatilized heavy metals that cause an even more significant public health hazard.
  3. Energy efficiency: The benefits of e-waste recycling extend to a significant reduction of energy requirements. The energy cost to recycle e-waste for minerals is considerably less than the energy costs to mine minerals. Energy savings resultant from e-waste recycling also produce many indirect benefits such as less dependence on finite oil reserves, reduction of air pollution caused by energy production, and a decline in greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.
  4. Economic growth: The financial benefits of recycling or the ability of recycled e-waste to generate income makes it one of the fastest-growing business opportunity. It generates jobs opportunity which leads to the economic development of the country.
  5. Increase job opportunities: E-Cycling creates jobs for professional recyclers and refurbishers and creates new markets for the valuable components that are dismantled.
Shortcomings
  1. Improper implementation of laws: Existing laws relating to e-waste management and handling have not been implemented properly. There is a lack of uniformity. The US has not ratified the Basal Convention which prevents the transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries like India.
  2. Legally or illegally importing: The import of used computers and other electronic waste in our country from developed countries such as the USA, Australia, Canada, and parts of Europe causes damage to the environment and increases pollution. These imports are sometimes illegal also.
  3. Lack of proper investment: Investment in this sector is a big problem. Investment is poor as the incentives in this sector are low and with hardly any profit margin.
  4. The old tradition of recycling: Developing countries such as India still apply old traditional methods for recycling e-waste. Such methods include incineration, landfills, etc.
  5. Misuse of Indian low-cost technology: India is a developing country and has an inexpensive method of processing and handling E-waste. Hence developed countries misuse Indian low-cost technology and dump their hazardous e-waste in our country in order to save on costs.
E-Waste Legislation in India

Prior to the enactment of the E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011; e-waste was covered under the Hazardous Waste Management (HWM) Rules. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 were enacted and became effective from 1st May 2012. These Rules were brought into force to enable recovery and/or reuse of useful material from e-waste, thereby reducing the hazardous wastes destined for disposal, to ensure the environmentally sound management of all types of e-waste, and to address the safety and environmentally friendly handling, transporting, storing, and recycling of e-waste. For the first time, the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was introduced which made manufacturers liable for the safe disposal of electronic goods.

Thereafter, the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 were enacted in supersession of the 2011 Rules and came into effect from 1st October 2016. A manufacturer, dealer, refurbisher, and Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) were also brought under the ambit of these Rules. PRO is a professional organization authorized or financed collectively or individually by producers, which can take the responsibility for the collection and channelization of e-waste generated from their products to ensure environmentally sound management. An option was given for setting up of a PRO as an additional channel for implementation of EPR by Producers. Further, a collection mechanism-based approach was adopted for the collection of e-waste by Producers under EPR. Furthermore, the applicability of the Rules was expanded to cover components, consumables, parts, and spares of EEE in addition to the equipment covered under the Rules.

The E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 have recently been amended by the Centre; vide notification G. S. R. 261 (E), dated 22nd March 2018 to facilitate and effectively implement the environmentally sound management of e-waste in India. These amendments have been made with the objective of channelizing the e-waste generated in the country towards authorized dismantlers and recyclers in order to further formalize the e-waste recycling sector.