e-Waste management: Opportunity and Threat

e-Waste is the waste produced by discarded electronic gadgets like television, mobile, computer, laptop. These discarded gadgets contain a lot of harmful metals and chemicals. In the absence of a proper recycling ecosystem, a lot of waste goes untreated and pollutes our environment.

What is e-Waste?

Today is the day where our life depends on a lot of electronic gadgets for various purposes like to get communication, information, financial transaction, purchase. But these gadgets have a life as well as technologies are evolving(after every few months there is upgraded version of the old device). All these lead to the replacement of old devices with the new device. Then what about the old devices.

These old devices turn out to be an electronic waste(e-Waste). This electronic waste contains a lot of harmful metals as well as chemicals (like cadmium, silicon, gold, silver among others). The trend of increasing electronic waste is visible in all countries across the globe irrespective of social and economic status. But poor developing countries are less equipped with the technologies as well as the ecosystem to deal with e-Waste.

In India the annual e-Waste produced will be around 5.2 Million Tonnes as in 2020 (as per ASSOCHAM) and is increasing with the Compound Annual Growth Rate of 30 percent. Out of these only 20 percent of E-Waste is treated and recycled.

What are the pollutants generated trough e-Waste?

There are numerous pollutants that are generated through electronic waste. These are

  1. Plastic
  2. Cadmium
  3. Silver
  4. Iron
  5. Gold
  6. Copper
  7. Mercury
  8. Aluminum
  9. Arsenic
  10. Gallium
  11. Lead
  12. Platinum
  13. Lithium
  14. Cobalt
  15. Polychlorinated Biphenyl
  16. Selenium
  17. Barium
  18. Chrome

These pollutants were not properly handled and disposed of causing environmental pollution. The common type of pollution is air, water, and soil pollution. The person involved in electronic waste disposal (in the Informal sector) remains exposed to these contaminants for a prolonged period of time suffers from various health issues.

e-Waste Management in India

India is the fifth-largest producer of e-Waste. The electronic waste production in India is growing at a rate of 30 percent Compound Annual Growth Rate. India is likely to produce 5 Million Tonnes of electronic waste in the year 2020.

The number of smartphones used in India is the second-largest among the world. And this amount is likely to grow due to increased population, lower price, rise in the middle-income groups.

The government Initiative of Digital India has given impetus in the already expanded use of electronic gadgets.

At present, about 90 percent of e-Waste is handled by the Informal sector. This sector lacks technology, capital as well as trained workers. This situation has led to a low level of recycling of electronic waste. Most of the electronic waste pollutants end-up in our environment.

E-Waste Management Rules of 2016 by Parliament of India replaced the E-Waste (Management and Handling )Rules of 2011. This new E-Waste Management Rules of 2016 has again got amended in the year 2018.

E-Waste Management Rules of 2016 clarify the responsibility of the Producer to adhere to the e-Waste Management Practice. After the amendment to these Rules in 2018, it is the responsibility of the producers and importers to collect and dispose of the e-Waste generated through their sale. The target is 10% in year 2017-18, 20% in the year 2018-19, 30% in year 2019-20, 40% in year 2020-21, 50% in year 2021-22, 60% in year 2022-23, 70% in year 2023-24.

This arrangement to put the responsibility on the producer to collect and recycle e-waste generated through the sale is known as the Extended Producer Responsibility.

Initiatives taken by Indian to deal with e-Waste

What is Extended Producer Responsibility?

Extended Producer Responsibility is the term associated with the management of e-Waste. This concept was implemented in India through E-Waste (Management and Handling)Rules of 2011.

As per this provision, it is the responsibility of the producers and importers to look into the proper collection, disposal, and dismantling of the e-Waste generated through their sale. At present every producer has to manage 30% of electronic waste (as in 2019-20)generated by its sale.

After coming off this provision every producer has started Buy Back offer to collect the old, defected electronics gadgets.

This Buyback offers by various producers have enabled the proper management of e-Waste. But still, India has to go a long way in the proper management of electronic waste. Because only 20% of the e-waste is now recycled.

Most of the producers do not provide any incentives for old electronics gadgets through Buyback offers on most of the accessories.

Opportunity in electronic waste management

This electronic waste contains a lot of rare earth minerals. The proper recycling of e-waste will lead to India less dependent on the import of these metals like gold, cadmium, mercury.

The electronics-waste management industry has the potential to create a job for skilled laborers. At present most of the electronic waste is disposed of by unskilled workers in the informal sector.

For example, Japan is working on a plan to make all the Medals for Tokyo Olympic 2020 by the recycling of electronic waste.

the threat involved in e-waste management

By 2020 India is likely to produce 5 Million Tonnes of electronic waste. Since more than 80% of electronic waste still disposed and dismantled by the informal sector without the help of proper technology. This has led to the pollution of air, water, and soil. Apart from this, all the workers involved are at risk of various health hazards.

The trend to increase in e-waste production is likely to continue for some decades because of the large population and rising middle class. If proper attention is not given in the management of electronics waste then this can cause huge environmental problems in the coming decades.

what is e-waste?

There is a life for every electronics gadget. After this period these electronics items becomes a waste. These unused electronics items are known as Electrical and Electronics Waste. These electronics waste contains a lot of harmful chemicals as well as metals so proper management of e-waste is very important.

What is the problem with e-waste?

Electrical and Electronics Waste contains a lot of harmful chemicals as well as metals. These harmful chemicals when goes in our environment cause problems like air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution. So proper management of e-waste is very important.

What are sources of e-waste?

Electrical and Electronics Waste is generated through unused electrical and electronics items like smartphones, TV, Battery, Charger, computer, tablet, laptop, fan, Freeze, cooler, Air Conditioner and other similar items.

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