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.
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.