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Analysis of Sansad TV Discussion: Electronic Waste Management


• India is the fastest growing economy, wherein electronics play the key driver.
•The rapid innovation in technology has resulted in improved electronic products, besides faster obsolescence of old products, thereby creating an unmanageable volume of electronic waste (e-waste).
• 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.

What is e-waste?

  • Like hazardous waste, the problem of e-waste has become an immediate and long term concern as its unregulated accumulation and recycling can lead to major environmental problems endangering human health.
  • New electronic products have become an integral part of our daily lives providing us with more comfort, security, easy and faster acquisition and exchange of information.
  • But on the other hand, it has also led to unrestrained resource consumption and an alarming waste generation.
  • It comprises a whole range of electrical and electronic items such as refrigerators, washing machines, computers and printers, televisions, mobiles, i-pods, etc., many of which contain toxic materials.
  • Many of the trends in consumption and production processes are unsustainable and pose a serious challenge to the environment and human health.
  • E-waste is a health and environmental hazard, containing toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, which damages the human brain and/or coordination system.

Composition of E-Waste

  • The composition of e-waste is diverse and falls under the ‘hazardous’ and ‘non-hazardous’ categories. Broadly, it consists of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, glass, wood and plywood, printed circuit boards, concrete, ceramics, rubber and other items.
  • The E&E products are homogenous solid components containing heavy metals, polymers, flame retardants, polychlorinated biphenyls, etc. Some examples are given below:-
    1. Cathode ray tubes, found in televisions and computers contain lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium and brominated flame retardants.
    2. A mobile phone/ smart phone contains more than 50 different components, including base metals (such as copper, tin), special metals (such as cobalt, indium, antimony) and precious metals (such as silver, gold, palladium). The most common metal is copper (9g), while the precious metal content is in the order of milligrams only (about 250 mg silver, 24 mg gold and 9 mg palladium).
    3. The lithium-ion battery contains about 3.5 grams of cobalt. Iron and steel constitute about 50% of the waste, followed by plastics (21%), non-ferrous metals (13%) and other constituents.
  • Non-ferrous metals consist of metals like copper, aluminium and precious metals like silver, gold, platinum, palladium and so on.
  • The presence of elements like lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium, hexavalent chromium, and flame retardants beyond threshold quantities make e-waste hazardous in nature.
  • It contains over 1000 different substances, many of which are toxic, and creates serious pollution upon disposal.
  • Obsolete computers pose the most significant environmental and health hazard among the e-wastes.

A worldwide concern

• 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.
• The countries of the European Union (EU) and other developed countries are adopting scientific methods of recycling and disposal of such waste.
• The EU defines this e-waste stream as ‘Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment’ (WEEE). The main features of the WEEE include the definition of ‘EEE’, its classification into 10 categories and its extent as per voltage rating of 1000 volts for
alternating current and 1500 volts for direct current.
• In India E-Waste (Management) Rules were notified in March 2016  and amended in 2018 for providing environmentally sound systems for disposal of e-waste.

No proper recycling mechanism

  • E-waste when dumped in landfills impacts human and environmental health.
  • Besides, recycling e-waste in the informal sector by unscientific means also creates significant damage.
  • There is a responsibility and immense potential in augmenting e-waste recycling through various initiatives in the country.
  • However, lots of ground has to be covered through awareness campaigns, skill development, capacity creation and introduction of indigenous technology, while adopting adequate safety measures in the country for the informal sector.

About Global E-waste Monitor 2020

The Global E-waste Monitor 2020 is a collaborative product of the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership (GESP), formed by the United Nations University (UNU), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), in close collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The World Health Organization (WHO) and the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) also substantially contributed to rear 2020s Global E-waste Monitor.

Key findings from the Global E-waste Monitor 2020

  • A record 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019, up 21 per cent in just five years.
  • The new report also predicts that global e-waste (discarded products with a battery or electrical plug) will reach 74 Mt by 2030 — almost a doubling of e-waste tonnage in just 16 years.
  • This makes e-waste the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream, fueled mainly by higher consumption rates of electric and electronic equipment, short life cycles, and few options for repair.
  • Only 17.4 per cent of 2019’s e-waste was collected and recycled. This means that gold, silver, copper, platinum, and other high-value, recoverable materials conservatively valued at US $57 billion — a sum greater than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries — were mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.
  • According to the report, Asia generated the greatest volume of e-waste in 2019 — some 24.9 Mt, followed by the Americas (13.1 Mt), Europe (12 Mt), Africa (2.9 Mt), and Oceania (0.7 Mt).

Suggested Approach for e-waste disposal

  • A strategy of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” should be adopted for e-waste disposal.
  • Reduce the generation of e-waste through smart procurement and good maintenance.
  • Reuse still functioning electronic equipment by donating or selling it to someone who can still use it.
  • Recycle those components that cannot be repaired. Use only authorized recyclers for disposing of the e-waste products.

E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016

  • E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016, enacted since October 1, 2017, had further strengthened the existing rules.
  • Over 21 products (Schedule-I) were included under the purview of the rule.
  • The rule also extended its purview to components or consumables or parts or spares of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE), along with their products.
  • The present rule has strengthened the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which is the global best practice to ensure the take-back of end-of-life products.
  • A new arrangement entitled, ‘Producer Responsibility Organisation’ (PRO) has been introduced to strengthen EPR further.
  • PRO, a professional organisation, would be authorised or financed collectively or individually by producers, to share the responsibility for collection and channelisation of e-waste generated from the ‘end-of-life’ products to ensure environmentally sound management of such e-waste.
  • The rule has provisioned the target for the producers, which was missing in the first version of the Rule (2012). Now, manufacturers are mandated to take back their sold products with recommended mechanisms.
  • The present Rule ensures that every producer of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and their components or consumables or parts or spares shall ensure that new EEE and their components or consumables or parts or spares do not contain pollutants such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers beyond a maximum concentration value.
  • Every producer shall provide detailed information on the constituents of the equipment and their components or consumables or parts or spares, along with a declaration of conformance to the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) provisions in the product user documentation.
  • Imports or placement in the market for new electrical and electronic equipment shall be permitted only for those which are compliant to provisions of (sub-rule (1) and sub-rule (4)) rule 16.
  • Further, Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shall conduct random sampling of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market to monitor and verify the compliance of RoHS provisions and the cost for sample and testing shall be borne by the producer.
  • The random sampling shall be as per the guidelines of CPCB. If the product does not comply with RoHS provisions, the producers shall take corrective measures to bring the product into compliance, and withdraw or recall the product from the market.

E-Waste (Management) Amendment Rules, 2018

  • The new E-Waste (Management) Amendment Rules, 2018 has the provision of the introduction of Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) registration.
  • Another important provision is the addition of EPR targets for producers. 
  • According to the latest amendment, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) may conduct random sampling of electrical and electronic equipment placed in the market to monitor and verify the compliance of reduction of hazardous substances provisions and the cost for sampling and testing shall be borne by the government, which was not the case in the previous amendment. Earlier, the cost was borne by the producers.
  • Moreover, the collection, storage, transportation, segregation, refurbishment, dismantling, recycling and disposal of e-waste shall be in accordance with the guidelines published by the CPCB.

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