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SANSAD TV: PERSPECTIVE- ELECTRONIC WASTE MANAGEMENT

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Introduction:

Electrical and electronic equipments have become an essential part of everyday life. Its availability and widespread use have enabled much of the global population to benefit from higher standards of living. However, the way in which we produce, consume, and dispose of e-waste is unsustainable. E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, brominated flame retardants (BFR), CFCs and HCFCs. The increasing levels of e-waste, low collection rates, and non-environmentally sound disposal and treatment of this waste stream pose significant risks to the environment and to human health. Improper management of e-waste also contributes to global warming. According to Global E-waste Monitor 2020, the world generated a striking 53.6 Mt of e-waste in 2019 which is an average of 7.3 kg per capita. The growing amount of e-waste is mainly fueled by higher consumption rates of Electronic equipments, short life cycles, and few repair options. Since 2014, the number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation has increased from 61 to 78. In India E-Waste (Management) Rules were notified in March 2016 for providing environmentally sound systems for disposal of e-waste.

E-waste:

  • It is technically all waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) discarded without the intent of reuse.
  • It is one of the fastest growing waste streams in both developed and developing countries.

Current Status:

  • According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generated more than 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019-20, an increase from 7 lakh tonnes in 2017-18. Against this, the e-waste dismantling capacity has not been increased from 82 lakh tonnes since 2017-18.
  • In 2018, the Ministry of Environment had told the tribunal that 95% of e-waste in India is recycled by the informal sector and scrap dealers unscientifically dispose of it by burning or dissolving it in acids.
  • The volume of E-waste increased by 21% globally in the last 5 years.
  • India, together with China and the United States, accounts for 38 per cent of this volume generated worldwide.
  • E-waste generation in India increased by 43 per cent in just three years.
  • The demand for electronics, especially in the form of information and telecommunication equipment, has been fueled by the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
  • Today, we are a part of a new work culture where virtual is the new norm.
  • As the demand for electronic equipment increases, so does the amount of E-waste generated.
  • An attractive electronics market with new design and innovation as well as a downward pricing trend allure consumers to purchase new electronic products way before the older ones become dysfunctional.

Factors responsible for the growth of E-waste:

  • Rapid advances in technology.
  • Economic growth
  • Urbanisation processes
  • Increasing demand for consumer electronic equipment
  • Downward trend in prices

Crisis:

  • Experts predict that E-waste gets buried under the ground in landfills for centuries as it is not biodegradable.
  • E-waste contains substances that are hazardous to human health, including, mercury, cadmium and lead.
  • E-waste can pollute water sources and food-supply chains.
  • Findings from many studies show increases in spontaneous miscarriages, still and premature births, as well as reduced birth weights and birth lengths associated with exposure to e-waste.

Challenges :

  • Electronic waste (E-waste) represent a major environmental challenge in the world today.
  • Majority of the progress in the extraction of valuable metals from E-waste or degradation of hazardous compounds through biotechnological or physicochemical processes is yet to travel from the lab to the land.
  • Lack of information and awareness on responsible E-waste management among the populace.
  • E-waste management in India is largely based on informal sector activities for collection, dismantling and recycling.
  • The urban masses lack information about the presence of any recycling center in their respective cities.
  • India notified the E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016, which made ‘extended producer responsibility’ (EPR) mandatory. The implementation of EPR remains extremely poor.
  • The stored E-waste in houses, offices and educational institutes act as a barrier towards exploring the ‘urban mining’ potential.
  • Non-collected e-waste is also a serious health and environmental hazard as it contains several toxic substances.
  • With the absence of “good and credible data” in India, it would be difficult to enforce systems for managing e-waste.

Way Forward:

  • Effective awareness would be the right step for all stakeholders.
  • Need for adopting environmentally friendly e-waste recycling practices.
  • Unless we have effective implementation of the rule, the country would end up creating many informal processing hubs.
  • Strict implementation of the rule, creating adequate awareness and training for requisite skill sets to the informal sector could be a game-changer.
  • This sector needs technological support, from land to capacity building to IT.
  • This sector could generate jobs as well as viable business prospects for locals.
  • Waste pickers should be trained to collect e-waste.
  • More emphasis should be on to reuse the e-waste, for which industries need to design a framework.
  • India has lot to learn from Norway model of e-waste management.