- E-Waste is short for Electronic-Waste and the term is used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded electronic appliances. It includes their components, consumables, parts and spares.
- It is categorised into 21 types under two broad categories:
- Information technology and communication equipment.
- Consumer electrical and electronics.
- Laws to manage e-waste have been in place in India since 2011, mandating that only authorised dismantlers and recyclers collect e-waste. E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016 was enacted in 2017.
- India’s first e-waste clinic for segregating, processing and disposal of waste from household and commercial units has been be set-up in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
- E-waste Generation in India:
- 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.
- NGT’s Directions:
- Further steps should be taken for scientific enforcement of E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 (EWMR) in the light of the reports of the CPCB. It noted gaps in collection targets, as the amount of e-waste collected in 2018-19 was 78,000 tonnes against a target of 1.54 lakh tonnes. There are clear governance deficits on the subject.
- The CPCB may consider steps for compliance of Rule 16 requiring reduction in the use of Hazardous substances in the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment and their components or consumables or parts or spares.
- It took note that a large number of accidents take place in residential areas on account of unscientific handling of e-waste. This needs special attention for constant vigilance in such hotspots. This also requires review and updation of siting norms for e-waste by the CPCB which may be done within three months.
- All the state pollution control boards need to identify the hotspots by constant vigil and to coordinate with the District Administration at local levels to prevent damage to the environment and public health and meaningful enforcement of rule of law.
E-Waste Management Rules, 2016
- The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 in supersession of the E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011.
- Over 21 products (Schedule-I) were included under the purview of the rule. It included Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and other mercury containing lamps, as well as other such equipment.
- For the first time, the rules brought the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets. Producers have been made responsible for the collection of E-waste and for its exchange.
- Various producers can have a separate Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) and ensure collection of E-waste, as well as its disposal in an environmentally sound manner.
- Deposit Refund Scheme has been introduced as an additional economic instrument wherein the producer charges an additional amount as a deposit at the time of sale of the electrical and electronic equipment and returns it to the consumer along with interest when the end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment is returned.
- The role of State Governments has been also introduced to ensure safety, health and skill development of the workers involved in dismantling and recycling operations.
- A provision of penalty for violation of rules has also been introduced.
- Urban Local Bodies (Municipal Committee/Council/Corporation) have been assigned the duty to collect and channelize the orphan products to authorized dismantlers or recyclers.
- Allocation of proper space to existing and upcoming industrial units for e-waste dismantling and recycling.
Data Analysis of 2019:
- There was 6 million tonnes (MT) e-waste in 2019, which is a nearly 21% increase in just five years.
- Asia generated the greatest volume (around 24.9 MT) followed by the Americas (13.1 MT) and Europe (12 MT). Africa and Oceania generated 2.9 MT and 0.7 MT respectively.
- Most E-waste consisted of small and large equipment like screens and monitors, lamps, telecommunication equipment etc and temperature exchange equipment.
- Less than 18% of the e-waste generated in 2019 was collected and recycled. E-waste consisting of gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high-value, recoverable materials worth at least USD 57 billion was mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.
- The number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation has increased from 61 to 78 and includes India. It is far from the target set by the International Telecommunication Union to raise the percentage of countries with e-waste legislation to 50%.
- Toxicity: E-waste consists of toxic elements such as Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Chromium, Polybrominated biphenyls and Polybrominated diphenyl.
- Effects on Humans: Some of the major health effects include serious illnesses such as lung cancer, respiratory problems, bronchitis, brain damages, etc due to inhalation of toxic fumes, exposure to heavy metals and alike.
- Effects on Environment: E-waste is an environmental hazard causing groundwater pollution, acidification of soil and contamination of groundwater and air pollution due to the burning of plastic and other remnants.
E-waste in India
- Structured management of e-waste in India is mandated under the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016.
- Some of the salient features of the rules include e-waste classification, extended producer responsibility (EPR), collection targets and restrictions on import of e-waste containing hazardous materials.
- There are 312 authorised recyclers of e-waste in India, with the capacity for treating approximately 800 kilo tons annually. However, formal recycling capacity remains underutilised because over 90% of the e-waste is still handled by the informal sector.
- Almost over a million people in India are involved in manual recycling operations. Workers are not registered so it is hard to track the issues of employment such as workers’ rights, remunerations, safety measures,
- Labourers are from the vulnerable sections of the society and lack any form of bargaining power and are not aware of their rights. This has a serious impact on the environment since none of the procedures is followed by workers or local dealers.
- It is needed to come up with a strategy to engage with informal sector workers because doing so will not only go a long way in better e-waste management practices but also aid in environmental protection, improve the health and working conditions of labourers and provide better work opportunities to over a million people.
- This will make management environmentally sustainable and easy to monitor.
- The need of the hour is to generate employment, which can be done through identifying and promoting cooperatives and expanding the scope of the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 to these cooperatives or the informal sector workers.
- Effective implementation of regulations is the way ahead to managing the e-waste that is yet to be regulated in at least 115 countries.