e-Waste – UPSC GS1

  • 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.
  • Defunct gadgets are broken for precious metals.
  • Under, E-Waste (Management & Handling) Rules 2011, EPR: Extended Producer Responsibility. Manufacturers have to set up collection centre for their product.
  • E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016:  CFL and other mercury lamp now in ambit of e-waste
  • Citizen should buy product with least toxic material, recycle and reuse capable and certified by regulatory authority.
  • India is the world’s fifth largest electronic waste (e-waste) producer : ASSOCHAM
  • In India, e waste accounts for 4% of global e-waste
  • A recent ASSOCHAM-NEC study on “Electricals & Electronics Manufacturing in India” has revealed that India recycles only 5% of its e-waste and the country is one of the biggest contributors of e-waste in the world.
What is E-waste?
  • E-waste refers to the electronic equipment being thrown away. It includes discarded computer monitors, motherboards, Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT), Printed Circuit Board (PCB), mobile phones and chargers, compact discs, headphones, white goods such as Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD)/ Plasma televisions, air conditioners, refrigerators and so on.
  • E-waste is one of the major global concerns of the 21st century.
  • As per Moore’s law, the transistor numbers to be accommodated in same size chip double every two years, and due to this most electronic systems get outdated in about three years. People upgrade their mobiles, laptops, cameras, televisions etc. creating a large amount of useless e-waste.
Indian Initiatives:
  • E-Waste Management Rules, 2016:
    • The rules aim to enable the recovery and/or reuse of useful material from e-waste, thereby reducing the hazardous wastes destined for disposal and to ensure the environmentally sound management of all types of waste of electrical and electronic equipment.
  • E-Waste Clinic:
    • Aimed at segregating, processing and disposal of waste.
E-Waste Management Rules 2016
  • They replace E-Waste Management Rules 2011
  • The new rules have included things like discarded CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) light bulbs which contain mercury.
  • The new rules have brought producers of electronic goods under “extended producer responsibility”, making them liable for collection and exchange of e-waste with targets.
  • Producers’ obligation to take care of e-waste will go up from 30% in the first year to 70% in the seventh year.
  • To make procedures easier to follow, the new rules require players in the e-waste life cycle to register with just the Central Pollution Control Board and not have to go through individual state pollution control boards.
  • A big responsibility also has been placed on the shoulders of state governments. It is their job to adequately train and protect the health of workers engaged in recycling.
Why it is difficult to manage e-waste in India?
  • The producers/manufacturers do not have adequate information on their website regarding e waste management.
  • Customer care representatives do not know about their companies responsibility to take back what they produce. (EPR)
  • Setting up collection centres for entire India is not economically possible fo a company
  • Improper enforcement of the existing laws is another hurdle.
  • Though India’s ministry of environment and forest has made import of e-waste illegal, a fair amount of e-waste is still illegally imported into India.
  • The informal sector’s recycling practices magnify health risks. For example, primary and secondary exposure to toxic metals, such as lead, results mainly from open-air burning used to retrieve valuable components such as gold. Combustion from burning e-waste creates fine particulate matter, which is linked to pulmonary and cardiovascular disease
What should be done?
  • e-waste contain valuable rare earth metals. Treatment of e-waste should be brought under organised sector with standard best practices being followed.
  • Manufacturing processes in India have to adopt better technology so as to generate less waste
  • Adopt Norway model :
    • Norway has e-waste take back system in place for more than a decade now. The producers/importers of e-waste in Norway are obliged to be members of a take-back company and have to pay a fee for their membership to the take-back companies. This is how it provides the funding for collection and treatment of the waste
    • Take-back companies need to ensure that they will collect all e-waste from their market share which is determined by how much of electronics is put into the market by their members
  • Government should bring a separate legislation on e-waste instead of handling it under the Environment Protection Act
  • Such legislation may call for establishing a central authority or a central public sector undertaking having experts from IT field and other technical domains possessing knowledge of e-waste disposal, management and recycling techniques and its own e-waste collection centre/ recycling plants with state-of-art technologies, in all major cities of the country.

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