E Waste Management Issues, Challenges And Proposed Solutions
Electronic waste, abbreviated as ‘e-waste’ is a term used to describe old, end-of-life electronic appliances such as computers, laptops, TV’s, radios, refrigerators etc., which have been discarded by users. E-waste comprises of numerous valuable but harmful substances that can cause an adverse effect on human health. Recycling e-waste can be dangerous if not done using suitable techniques and measures.
Electronic industry is the world’s largest and innovative industry for its kind. Every year tons of electronic items are shipped over oceans, however, after their usage time they become a complex waste matter which consists of many hazardous heavy metals, acids, toxic chemicals and non degradable plastics. Many are dumped, burnt or exported to recyclers. Most e-recyclers export the toxic materials such as leaded glass, circuit boards, and mercury lamps usually to China, Africa and India. e- Wastes junked and dismantled here not only involve in unscrewing but also shredding, tearing and burning. The smoke and dust particle consists of carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals which causes severe inflammations and lesions including many respiratory and skin diseases. Circuits are burnt to hunt the valuable metals such as gold, platinum, cadmium but the wire coat of those consists of PVC which produce erotic smoke, and carbon particles from the toners are carcinogens, which may lead to lung and skin cancer. According to the data received in 2007 about 70 % of e- waste of the world reaches China and the rest to Africa and India. Due to cheap labour they have become the world’s dumping station of e- waste. In Ghana about 20% of their population are working on e-waste which they use after reconditioning them. Poverty is the main reason for third world countries to consume e-wastes from Europe and USA.
The Basel Action Network (BAN) which works for prevention of globalisation of toxic chemicals has stated in a report that 50 to 80 per cent of e-waste collected by the US is exported to India, China, Pakistan, Taiwan and a number of African countries. This is done because cheaper labour is available for recycling in these countries. And in the US, export of e-waste is legal. E-waste recycling and disposal in China, India and Pakistan are highly polluting. Of late, China has banned import of e-waste. Export of e-waste by the US is seen as lack of responsibility on the part of Federal Government, electronics industry, consumers, recyclers and local governments towards viable and sustainable options for disposal of e-waste. In India, recycling of e-waste is almost entirely left to the informal sector, which does not have adequate means to handle either the increasing quantities or certain processes, leading to intolerable risk for human health and the environment.
E waste in India
IT and telecom are two fastest growing industries in the country. India, by 2011, has achieved a PC penetration of 95 per 1000 from the 14 per 1000 in 2008. Indians do not junk their mobiles, but pass them on to a new low-end user who will, in turn, junk them in the flea market from where the instruments make their way to the Kabadiwallas. India is the fifth biggest producer of e-waste in the world; discarding 1.7 million tonnes (Mt) of electronic and electrical equipment in 2014. In India E-waste collection, transportation, segregation, dismantling, recycling and disposal is done manually by untrained labours in informal sector. Due to low awareness and sensitization e-waste is thrown along with garbage which is collected and segregated by rag pickers. E-waste contains reusable and precious material. Rag pickers sell this E-waste to scrap dealers and run their livelihood. The scrap dealers supply the E-waste to recycling industries. The recyclers use old and hazardous technologies and equipment, to recycle/treat the e-waste. India's produces nearly 12.5 lakh MTs of E-waste every year. India ranks 155 out of 178 nations in Environmental Performance Index. It also ranks poorly in various indicators like 127 in Health Hazards, 174 in Air Quality, 124 in Water and Sanitization. Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of e-waste will also improve ranking of India in these areas.
India is being used as dumping ground of e-waste by many developed nations. Figure shows percentage share of e-waste imports in India from different countries. Looking at the country-wise share in India’s e-waste imports, US has a maximum share of around 42%, China at around 30% followed by Europe at around 18% and rest 10% is from other countries like Taiwan, South Korea, Japan etc.
10 States/UT contribute to 70% of the total e-waste generated in the country, while 65 cities generate more than 60% of the total e-waste in India. Table below shows top ten states producing e-waste in India.
Top ten e waste producing states in India
||E waste MT
Source (Rajya Sabha 2001)
|Top ten e waste generating cities
||E waste in tonnes
Source Rajya Sabha 2001
Sources of e-waste
Almost every used electronic items are considered as e-waste such as discarded cell phones, cameras, CD players, TVs, radios, drillers, fax machines, photocopiers, printers, toners, ink cartridges, batteries, re-chargeable batteries, digital calculators and clocks, CRT monitors, electric solders, computer mother boards, key board, industrial and house hold electronic machinery such as oven, fridge, sewing & washing machines, fan, air-conditioner, grinder, iron, heater, military and laboratory electronic equipment’s, etc.
E-waste is not hazardous per se. However, the hazardous constituents present in the e-waste render it hazardous when such wastes are dismantled and processed, since it is only at this stage that they pose hazard to health and environment. Electronics and electrical equipment seem efficient and environmentally- friendly, but there are hidden dangers associated with them once these become e-waste. The harmful materials contained in electronics products, coupled with the fast rate at which we’re replacing outdated units, pose a real danger to human health if electronics products are not properly processed prior to disposal. Electronics products like computers and cell phones contain a lot of different toxins. For example, cathode ray tubes (CRTs) of computer monitors contain heavy metals such as lead, barium and cadmium, which can be very harmful to health if they enter the water system. These materials can cause damage to the human nervous and respiratory systems. Flame-retardant plastics, used in electronics casings, release particles that damage human endocrine functions. These are the types of things that can happen when unprocessed e-waste is put directly in landfill.
E waste toxins affecting body parts
||AFFECTED BODY PARTS
|Printed circuit boards
||Lead and cadmium
||Nervous system and kidney
||Lung and skin
|CRT Cathode ray tubes
||Lead oxide , barium & cadmium
||Heart, liver and muscles
|Switches and flat screen monitors
||Brain and skin
||PVC Polyvinyl chloride
Issues related to E-waste in India
1. Volume of E-waste generated -
India stands fifth in e-waste generation producing around 1.7 lakhs metric tonnes per annum
2. Involvement of Child Labor-
In India, about 4.5 lakh child laborers in the age group of 10-14 are observed to be engaged in various E-waste activities and that too without adequate protection and safeguards in various yards and recycling workshops. So, there is a urgent need to bring out effective legislation to prevent entry of child labor into E-waste market- its collection, segregation and distribution.
3. Ineffective Legislation-
There is absence of any public information on most SPCBs/PCC websites. 15 of the 35 PCBs/PCC do not have any information related to E-waste on their websites, their key public interface point. Even the basic E-waste Rules and guidelines have not been uploaded. In absence of any information on their website, specially on details of recyclers and collectors of E-waste, citizens and institutional generators of E- waste are totally at a loss to deal with their waste and do not know how to fulfill their responsibility. So, there is failure in successful implementation of E-waste Management and Handling Rules, 2012.
4. Lack of infrastructure-
There is huge gap between present recycling and collection facilities and quantum of E-waste that is being generated. No collection and take back mechanisms are in place. There is lack of recycling facilities.
5. Health hazards-
E-waste contains over 1,000 toxic materials, which contaminate soil and ground water. Exposure can cause headache, irritability, nausea, vomiting, and eye pain. Recyclers may suffer liver, kidney and neurological disorders. Due to lack of awareness, they are risking their health and the environment as well.
6. Lack of incentive schemes-
No clear guidelines are there for the unorganized sector to handle E-waste. Also no incentives are mentioned to lure people engaged to adopt formal path for handling E-waste. Working conditions in the informal recycling sector are only slightly worse than in the formal sector. No incentive schemes for producers who are doing something to handle e-waste.
7. Poor awareness and sensitization-
Limited reach out and awareness regarding disposal, after determining end of useful life. Also Only 2% of individuals think of the impact on environment while disposing off their old electrical and electronic equipment.
8. E-waste imports –
Cross-border flow of waste equipment into India- 80 percent of E-waste in developed countries meant for recycling is sent to developing countries such as India, China, Ghana and Nigeria.
9. Reluctance of authorities’ involved-
Lack of coordination between various authorities responsible for E-waste management and disposal including the non-involvement of municipalities.
10. Security implications-
End of life computers often contain sensitive personal information and bank account details which, if not deleted leave opportunity for fraud.
11. High cost of setting up recycling facility-
In addition, the study also states that the advanced technology recycling projects (including metallurgy and refining of non ferrous metals) are at further economic disadvantage compared to basic process activities and are in general not economically viable. The formal recycling companies in India except some are only limited to pre-processing of the e-waste material, where the crushed e-waste with precious metals is sent to smelting refineries outside India. Formal sector in India still has a long way to go in adopting state - of-art technologies for e-waste recycling due to problems in sourcing e-waste and partly due to difficulty in making it profitable with high end investment in such superior and costly technologies.
12. Lack of research-
Government must encourage research into the development and standards of hazardous waste management, environmental monitoring and the regulation of hazardous waste-disposal.
E-waste policy and regulation
The Policy shall address all issues ranging from production and trade to final disposal, including technology transfers for the recycling of electronic waste. Clear regulatory instruments, adequate to control both legal and illegal exports and imports of e-wastes and ensuring their environmentally sound management should be in place. There is also a need to address the loop holes in the prevailing legal frame work to ensure that e-wastes from developed countries are not reaching the country for disposal. The Port and the Custom authorities need to monitor these aspects. The regulations should prohibit the disposal of e-wastes in municipal landfills and encourage owners and generators of e-wastes to properly recycle the wastes. Manufactures of products must be made financially, physically and legally responsible for their products.
Existing laws relating to e waste are:
• Tran’s boundary movement of e-waste covered under the Basel convention.
• India ratified the convention in 1992.
• Waste importers exploit such gaps as listed in the convention.
• Allowed to import against a license.
• Covered under the “Hazardous Waste Amended Rules, 2003” in List A and B of Schedule 3. 
• The Rule is inadequate to handle generation, transportation and disposal of this complex waste.
• Regulators unable to monitor and regulate the informal sector.
Proposed Solutions to the Problem of e waste
• Domestic legal framework to address these gaps in import of E Waste
• Need to address safe disposal of domestic waste.
• Tie recycling in with take-back product
• The Framework should address the issue of E waste imports for reuse and recycling.
• Attract investment in this sector
• Link up activities of informal sector with formal sector
• Provide for appropriate framework for processes
• Promote adequate ESM technologies for recycling
• Incorporate precautionary principles and polluter pays
• Insist on domestic processing
• Then make sure the company you select has capacity to handle either type of E-Scrap.
• Promote recycling units to ease process and to encourage generators to have proper e-waste disposal
• Impart training to generators on e-waste handling
• Awareness program on recycling
• Fix duties and responsibilities to recyclers
• Tax incentives for scrap dealers
• Reward and reprimand schemes for performance and non-compliance of e-waste management
Solid waste management, which is already a mammoth task in India, is becoming more complicated by the invasion of e-waste, particularly computer waste. There exists an urgent need for a detailed assessment of the current and future scenario including quantification, characteristics, existing disposal practices, environmental impacts etc. Institutional infrastructures, including e-waste collection, transportation, treatment, storage, recovery and disposal, need to be established, at national and/or regional levels for the environmentally sound management of e-wastes. Establishment of e-waste collection, exchange and recycling centres should be encouraged in partnership with private entrepreneurs and manufacturers. Model facilities employing environmentally sound technologies and methods for recycling and recovery are to be established. Criteria are to be developed for recovery and disposal of E Wastes. Policy level interventions should include development of e-waste regulation, control of import and export of e-wastes and facilitation in development of infrastructure. An effective take-back program providing incentives for producers to design products that are less wasteful, contain fewer toxic components, and are easier to disassemble, reuse, and recycle may help in reducing the wastes. It should set targets for collection and reuse/recycling, impose reporting requirements and include enforcement mechanisms and deposit/refund schemes to encourage consumers to return electronic devices for collection and reuse/recycling. End-of life management should be made a priority in the design of new electronic products.
1. http://www.nswai.com/nswaiadmin/Pdfs/insertPdf/i_2015/i_Nov15/ELECTRONIC WASTE MANAGEMENT IN INDIA ISSUES AND STRATEGIES.pdf retrieved on December 7, 2017
2. Shagun, Ashwani Kush, and Anupam Arora, “Proposed Solution of e-Waste Management” International Journal of Future Computer and Communication, Vol. 2, No. 5, October 2013
3. http://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/publication_electronic/E-Waste_in_india.pdf retrieved on December 10 2017
4. Mahesh C. Vats and Santosh K. Singh, Status of E-Waste in India - A Review www.ijirset.com Volume 3, Issue 10, October 2014 retrieved on December 10, 2017