|Demand of the question Introduction. What is e-waste? Body. Discuss various issues related to e-waste and how is e-waste being regulated in India? Conclusion. Way forward.|
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a term for electronic products that have become unwanted, obsolete, and have reached the end of their useful life. It refers to all items of electrical and electronic equipment and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of re-use.
Various issues related to e-waste:
- Health risks: E-waste when dismantled and shredded, release dust or large particles into the immediate environment and affects the respiratory health of workers. Further, unregulated burning of e-waste releases toxins, such as dioxins which are potent and damaging to both human (neurological disease and impact on immune system) and animal health.
- Water pollution: Water is contaminated by e-waste in landfills that are not properly designed to contain e-waste and due to improper recycling and subsequent disposal of e-waste. Groundwater is polluted by e-waste as heavy metals and other persistent chemicals leach from landfills and illegal dump sites into ground water tables.
- Soil pollution: Soil is contaminated by e-waste through direct contact with contaminants from e-waste or the by-products of e-waste recycling and disposal and indirectly through irrigation through contaminated water. Contaminated soils have adverse impact on microbes and plants and the pollutants pass to higher animals and humans along the food chain.
- Air pollution: Most of the discarded products are set into open fire, which melts and releases harmful elements to the atmosphere. Carcinogens and neurotoxins when released into the air pollute and create smog which is very obnoxious.
E-waste regulation in India:
|Hazardous Waste Management (HWM) Rules||Prior to 2011, e-waste was covered under the Hazardous Waste Management (HWM) Rules.|
|E-waste Rules, 2011||In 2011, under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 were enacted.|
|E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016||In 2016, the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 were enacted which replaced the 2011 Rules. Collection: The Rules adopt collection-based approach to include collection centre, collection point, take back system etc. for collection of e-waste by Producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).Deposit Refund Scheme: 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.Liability for damages: Liability for damages caused to the environment or third party due to improper management of e–waste including has been introduced. The Rules also provide for provision of financial penalty in case of violation of rulesState and Urban Local Bodies: State should ensure effective implementation of the rules. Urban Local Bodies have been assigned the duty to collect and channelize the e-wastes to authorized dismantler or recycler.|
|Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management) Rules, 2016||The rules seek to ensure management, trans-boundary movement, resource recovery and disposal of hazardous waste in environmentally sustainable manner. Under the rules Waste electrical and electronic assemblies scrap are prohibited for import.|
|Other Initiatives to reduce e-Waste||Awareness Program on Environmental Hazards of Electronic Waste: The project initiated by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology aims to provide training, tools and films aimed at creating awareness and reducing the impact of e-waste on the environment and health.Creation of Management Structure for Hazardous Substances: The programme seeks to raise awareness among people about the 2016 Rules and its implementation.Swachh Digital Bharat: The programme seeks to create awareness among the public about the hazards of e-waste recycling by the unorganized sector, and to educate them about alternate methods of disposing of their e-waste.|
- Legal framework: There is a need to strengthen the domestic legal framework to address the issue of unregulated imports of e-waste.
- Formalisation: Steps should be taken to formalize the informal sector by integrating it with the formal sector. Government should introduce vocational training programs to rightly skill the current unorganized sector employees to ensure their smoother transition to working with the organized sector.
- R&D: Governments must encourage research into the development of better environmentally-sustainable e-waste recycling techniques.
- Assessment: There is urgent need for a detailed assessment of the E-waste including quantification, characteristics, existing disposal practices, environmental impacts.
- Recycling infrastructure: There is need for more recycling facilities and development of infrastructure to handle e-waste effectively. The government should encourage Public-Private Partnership for establishment of e-waste collection, exchange and recycling centers.
- Awareness: Mass awareness programmes should be initiated to encourage consumers to reuse/ recycle electronic products and also educate them about the environmental and health hazards of e-waste.
E-waste management is a great challenge for governments of many developing countries such as India. This is becoming a huge public health issue and is exponentially increasing by the day. In order to separately collect, effectively treat, it is essential to integrate the informal sector with the formal sector. The competent authorities need to establish mechanisms for handling and treatment of e-waste in a safe and sustainable manner.