E-Waste Management in India
Waste Management is a process which involves all those activities of managing the waste material from its foundation to its ultimate disposal. This process involves assembling, transferring, treatment and disposal of waste together with monitoring and regulation. For most of us remembering to put out our trash bins is the end of the story but, in fact it’s just the beginning of an extraordinary epic journey.
With the regular advancement of the world’s technology, electronic equipment is rendered out of date in a blink of an eye. These broken, discarded and obsolete products are known as an E – Waste and it all too often ends up in the trash, which is a very unfortunate way of dealing with these items for a few reasons. The first rationale being that these items may also be recycled and have many more years of productive utilization in yet another form. But more importantly E – Waste needs to be properly handled as many of these items contain dangerous constituents like chemicals Beryllium (Be), Cadmium (Cd), Lead (Pb) and Mercury (Hg). Having these products end up in our dump sites, rather being properly managed in the right waste recycler, is growing like a cancer to society. Choosing the right waste recycling authority, with the recycling of electronics being a growing business, which would take full ownership of the items and leave you assured that it will be handled in a legal, ethical and environmental friendly manner is an imperative task.
Recently, the amount of electronics products discarded globally have increased, with 20 – 50 million tonnes produced every year. This brings about significant threat to human health and the environment. In addressing this growing issue, one of the most promising policy options is the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Its aim is to extend responsibility of the producer for their products until end of its useful life. The policy tool is an environmental protection strategy aiming to achieve the objective of a total decreased environmental impact of a product.
Overview on E – Waste
E – Waste or Electronic waste has emerged as one of the upcoming concerns in many countries such as India, Malaysia, etc. In Malaysia, E – Wastes are categorized as ‘used’ assembliesof electrical and electronic equipment referred to as Scheduled Wastes in the First Schedule of the Environmental Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations 2005, administered by the Department of Environment (DOE). E – Waste covers a wide range of electrical and electronic products from as big as a refrigerator to as small as a calculator. Some of the examples of E – Waste include:
The disposal of E – Waste has been a major issue around the globe. Especially in Asia Pacific Region the volume and extent of E – Waste has been a growing issue and has to be given serious attention or else it could have severe repercussions. With that, EPR laws are being adopted by many governments as a measure in making sure the manufacturers keep their products away from the municipal solid waste stream.
Currently in our country today majority of e-waste in India is being managed by means of an informal sector which does not have sufficient means or consciousness to care for E-waste adequately.
Biological Effects of E – Waste Chemicals
Toxic Chemicals released from E-Waste materials may exert biological effects on environmental ecosystems including both plants and animals inhabiting aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
Ecosystems: Ecosystems are integrated diverse organization of plants and animals, which interact with each other usually on a number of levels. Healthy ecosystems are diverse and self – sustaining due to these interactions but may become less so if environmental conditions reduce diversity to only those organisms that can function and reproduce under adverse conditions such as those produced by excess exposure to mixtures of toxic chemicals such as those released by improper recycling of electronic waste. Now let’s discuss some of the documented effects of E-Waste chemicals on aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and their potential relationships to human health effects.
Aquatic Ecosystems: Toxic chemicals which are released by Industrial activities including improper recycling of electronic products may find their way into rivers, lakes and oceans by atmospheric deposition, runoff, and leaching from corrosion of fabricated devices. Among the known consequences of chemical exposures to a variety of chemicals are death of aquatic organisms, reproductive failures from endocrine – disrupting chemicals, cancers and altered susceptibility to infections from alterations of immune systems.
Terrestrial Ecosystems: Similar effects from such chemical exposures may occur in terrestrial ecosystems and influence crop plants, birds, including eggs and edible tissues of chickens, indicating disruptions of the food chain used to feed human populations or resulting in chemical contaminations of food such that it may become a health hazard following consumption. Possible changes in the structure of microbial communities have also been reported near open-burning E-Waste sites.
Human Health Effects: The human health effects of exposures to toxic chemicals derived from E-Waste have also been reported among workers dealing with E-Waste materials and the general population living near E-Waste recycling sites. The general types of health effects include respiratory problems, skin lesions, reproductive disorders, and cancers. In many situations, exposures are to mixtures of inorganic (lead, cadmium, arsenic, gallium, and indium) and organic (solvents, fire retardants, and plasticizers) chemicals, which may interact with each other in a variety of known and unknown ways. In addition, the immune suppressive effects of many chemicals may add to the increased susceptibility of persons in developing countries to infectious diseases. The crux is that exposures to chemicals derived from unsafe E-Waste recycling practices may add to existing public health disease in developing countries.
It was found that e-waste recycling operations were causing higher levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) in the environment as well as in humans. Body burdens of people in hair, human milk, and placenta from the e-waste processing site showed significantly higher levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) than those from the non-processing site.
Current Status of E-Waste Management
“Till now what kept you entertained is today plaguing the world with Global warming, Till now what used to be the pride of your household has today become a source of pollution and illness for someone else.” E-Waste is a kind of waste which is different from the ordinary wastes as it contains toxic pollutants like Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Chromium and Plastics which are very harmful for human as well as for the environment. Today there are lakhs of people working in unorganized sector of E-Waste Disposal. People working in these unorganized sector are often exposed to toxic chemicals during the processing of this waste. Interestingly, these E-Waste also consists of valuable substances like Gold, Silver and Copper. Today on one hand we are growing as biggest consumer country of electronics and at the same time we are generating vast amount of E-Waste. As per the vision of our Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, “There was a time when an expensive pen or a designer watch was considered a status symbol, but today flaunting a smart phone has become the status symbol. There is no awareness regarding E-Waste. Look, Our Country is facing environmental issues because wherever they set up a factory, they were not conscious about it. We should initiate a mission regarding E-Waste, we should do it online, we must undertake an awareness campaign. We should find solutions for E-Waste. A project can be created in association with the government. Without this solutions, we must suffer greatly.”
Our country is heavily depended on the unorganized sector as there is just a handful of organized E-Waste recycling facilities. Over 95% of the E-Waste is treated as well as processed in the urban slums of the country, where untrained workers carry out the dangerous procedures without any personal protective equipment, which are harmful not only to their health but also to the environment.
Recycling and treatment facilities which are fitted with technologically advanced equipment require a high level of initial investment. For the dismantling or destruction of one computer piece, the workers who are employed in these facilities only get a meagre Rs. 5 or 10. For such a meagre amount, these workers put their lives into danger. Such “Backyard Recyclers” do not have wastewater Treatment facilities, exhaust waste gas treatment and personal health protection equipment. It’s been observed that despite significant attention from the media and enactment of some national level trade bans (most notably in India and China), the problem is apparently worsening.
E-Waste Management Initiative
Under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, the “Polluter Pays Principle” is a principle which make the party responsible for producing pollution and makes it accountable for paying for the damage done to the natural environment. Principle 16 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development discusses about the “Polluter Pays Principle.”
Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) India has been working to finalize a set of rules and most recently issued a set of guidelines for proper and eco-friendly handling and disposal of the electronic waste. The Ministry of Electronics ; Information Technology in 2011 framed the E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 which included restrictions on usage of hazardous substances as per the global best-practices and prevention of e-waste dumping in the country was the subject matter which was dealt by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). Further in the year 2016, the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 was drafted which had the following features:-
The E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 are applicable on every producer, consumer, dismantler, recycler, bulk consumer and collector of E-Waste who are involved in the sale, manufacture, purchase, processing and use of the electrical and electronic equipment or components.
The E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 shall apply to the below mentioned products:
Used leads acid batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001;
All the Micro entities which are governed by the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006; and
Radio-active wastes as governed by the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.
The Responsibilities of a manufacturer under the E-Waste Management Rules are provided as under :
Collecting all the e-waste that was generated during the manufacture of the Electronic and Electrical equipment and channelize it for disposal or recycling
Maintaining the records of E-Waste generated, disposed and handled.
Filing of Form-3 for filing of annual returns to the State Pollution Control Board on or before 30th June for every financial year
The Responsibilities of the producer under the E-Waste Management Rules are provided as under:
Collecting and channelizing the e-waste as per the targets prescribed under Schedule III of the Rules;
Provide the contact details such as Name, Email Address, Contact numbers, to the customers through the website of the producer;
Spreading awareness regarding the proper management of E-Waste through various means such as media, newspapers, advertisements, posters or by radio or through any other means of communication.
The Responsibilities of the Consumer under the E-Waste Management Rules , 2016 are provided as under:The Consumers shall ensure that the e-waste as generated by them shall be channelized through a proper channel of Collection centres to the recyclers or the dismantlers;
Those Consumers who deal with bulk e-wastes shall ensure to maintain a record of the E-Waste generated, disposed and handled as per the Prescribed Form-2;
The Consumers who deal with bulk e-wastes shall ensure that their products are not mixed up with the e-wastes containing radio-active material as per the Atomic Energy Act, 1962.