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Electronic Waste Recycling in India

Electronic Waste Recycling in India

Why in news?

  • The government has informed recently that e-waste recycling has doubled in India compared to 2017-2018.
  • The government has reported that the reecyling rate of 10% in 2017-18 has risen to 20% in 2018-19.

What is E-waste in India?

  • As India is the fifth largest E-waste producing country in the world.
  • According to the Global E-Waste monitor 2017, India generates about 2 million tommes of e-waste annualy.
  • Some examples of E-waste are:
    • Computers
    • Televisions
    • VCRs
    • Stereos
    • Copiers, and
    • Fax machines
  • Electronic scrap materials like CPUs consist of possibly harmful substances like lead, beryllium, cadmium or brominated flame retardants.
  • The recycling and disposal of such electronic waste involved great risk to the workers and communities in developing nations. A lot of care must be taken to prevent hazardous exposure in recycling operations. Care must also be taken to prevent the leaking of harmful materials such as heavy metals from incinerator ashes and landfills.

E-waste Management Rules in India

  • The Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry (MoEF&CC) has announced the E-Waste Management Rules 2016.
  • The new Rules make for stricter norms and are a part of the government’s increased commitment towards environmental governance.
  • These new rules replaced the earlier E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules of 2011.

Highlights of the new E-waste Management Rules 2016:

  • The Rules for the first time, bring producers under the ambit of the Extended Producer Responsibility or EPR, together with the targets.
  • Producers have been made accountable for e-waste collection and for e-waste exchange as well.
  • CFLs or Compact Fluorescent Lamps as well as other lamps with mercury, and similar equipment have been brought under the purview of the rules.
  • Additional stakeholders included are:
    • Manufacturers
    • Refurbishers and Producer Responsibility Organizations.
    • Dealers
  • India’s Environment Ministry has notified rules targeting the wide range of groups like hotels, residential colonies, bulk producers of consumer goods, ports, railway stations, airports and pilgrimage spots.
  • This is to ensure that the solid waste generated in their facilities are treated and recycled.

Key Points of E-waste Management Rules 2016:

  • Census towns below a lakh would be given three years to establish solid waste processing facilities
  • Local bodies with a population of one lakh or above were supposed to establish solid waste processing facilities within two years,
  • The rules on solid waste management have been amended after 16 years.
  • Old and discarded dump sites would have to be shut-down or bio-remedied within five years.
  • A transition period of two to five years would be in place beyond which fines would be imposed as per the country’s Environment Minister.                Electronic Waste Recycling in India
  • Garbage management is the responsibility of municipal bodies, they would have rights to charge user fees and levy spot fines for littering and non-segregation.

Reasons for rising e-waste

  • E-waste is generated when electrical or electronic equipment (EEE) is discarded, or returned within warranty, by consumers, and also from manufacturing and repair rejects
  • While technology obsolescence creates e-waste (for example, landline phones, 2G vs 4G), power supply voltage surges which damage electronics are a major factor contributing to India’s e-waste
  • Discarded laptops, desktops, cellphones and their batteries, air conditioners and television sets, cables and wires, tubelights and CFLs which contain mercury, are some examples of e-waste
  • An additional problem arises when developed countries export their e-waste for recycling and/or disposal (legally or illegally) to developing countries, including India
  • India enjoys a frugal hand-me-down culture with a long line of re-users from a younger sibling to a maid to her village. As a result, our e-waste takes a lot longer to reach end of life

Poor recycling & associated health hazards

  • A study by ASSOCHAM and NEC finds that around 10% per cent of India’s e-waste gets recycled (2017-18), less than the global recycling rate of only 20 per cent (which was achieved in 2018-19).
  • 95 percent of India’s e-waste is managed by the unorganised sector (kabadiwalas, scrap dealers and dismantlers) using dangerous methods to recover metals from circuit-boards and wires
  • The workers themselves ignore safety measures needed for their work
  • The smoke from such burning is known to cause cancer, damage the nervous system, and also poses several other health hazards
  • Since electrical wires are almost invariably encased in PVC, which contains 57 per cent chlorine, the act of burning produces deadly dioxins
  • The National Green Tribunal has advised a ban on single-use PVC and short-life PVC products but not on wires and cables

Measures that can be taken

  • Ideally, we should all purchase new products turning in our old ones for a discount so that dealers become aggregators for channelising e-items to authorised dismantlers
  • Management of e-waste requires its dismantling, refurbishment or recycling and safe disposal
  • The E-Waste Management Rules 2016 address these issues. Extended producer responsibility is mandated to ensure effective plans for the collection, setting up collection centres and buyback mechanisms or a deposit refund scheme                                              Electronic Waste Recycling in India
  • But the Rules need to be backed by enforcement of the regulatory framework, provision of the necessary infrastructure, and an enabling environment for compliance
  • Producers can offer attractive buyback prices for circuit boards and channelise their recycling to the formal sector
  • Wire stripping units can be set up at the points of aggregation and burning, funded by wire and cable manufacturers
  • Cities should organise quarterly collection drives or provide drop -off centres. Producers should set up collection centres for EEE.



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