What are E-wastes?

What are E-wastes?

  • Typically E-waste 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 etc.
  • Computer equipment accounts for almost 70% of e-waste material followed by telecommunication equipment (12%), electrical equipment (8%) and medical equipment (7%).
  • The hazardous and toxic substances found in e-waste include:
    • Lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd) in PCBs and CRTS.
    • Mercury found in CFL, switches and flat screen monitors.
    • Cadmium in computer batteries.
    • Polychlorinated biphenyls found in capacitors and transformers and as brominated flame retardant on PCBs, plastic casings, cable and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cable sheathing for insulation.


Harmful effects of E-wastes

  • Electronic goods past their shelf life are broken down manually for precious metals or burnt or discarded in landfills, they contaminate land and water.
  • The heavy metals present in e-waste are known to cause damage to nervous systems, blood systems, kidneys and brain development, respiratory disorders, skin disorders, bronchitis, lung cancer, heart, liver, and spleen damage.


 Problem in recycling of e-wastes

  • Out of the 2 million tonnes of e-waste generated per annum only 5%, about 4,38,085 TPA, of India’s total e-waste gets recycled. This is due to poor infrastructure, legislation and framework.
  • Over 95% of e-waste generated is managed by the unorganised sector. Moradabad and Seelampur are seen as informal processing hubs.
  • According to the study conducted by environment ministry, the registered recyclers have following issues:
    • They are adopting environmentally unsound methods of storage, handling and processing of e-waste.
    • Non-compliance with guidelines of the CPCB.
    • For instance, about 200 companies that manufacture electronic goods from smart phones to laptops got served notices by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for not complying with e-waste procurement norms.
    • Certain recycling facilities were non-operational or inadequate to handle the capacity of e-waste.
    • Besides most e-waste recyclers are function as ‘dismantlers instead of recyclers’.
    • Most recyclers do not have a hazardous waste disposal yard.
    • Lack of enforcement of E-waste management rules.

E-waste management in India

  • E-waste (management and handling) rules 2011
  • Extended Producer Responsibility
    • The government passed the first law on e-waste management in 2011, based on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
    • Extended Producer Responsibility is to ensure the take-back of the end-of-life products.
    • According to Extended Producer Responsibility, it is the responsibility of the producer of the electronic item to manage the e-waste after the final stages of the life of its product, in an eco-friendly way.
    • However, the 2011 law did not set collection targets.
  • E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016
    • E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016, had further strengthened the existing rules and set collection targets.
    • Over 21 products (Schedule-I) were included under the purview of the rule.
  • Producer Responsibility Organisation
    • The 2016 rule strengthened the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) by introducing ‘Producer Responsibility Organisation’ (PRO).
  • Restricting the concentration of hazardous chemicals
    • Every producer of electrical and electronic equipment shall ensure that new EEE and their components do not contain pollutants such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers beyond a maximum concentration value.
  • Take-back
    • Further the 2017 rules require companies that make or sell electronic equipment to collect a certain percentage of e-waste generated from their goods once they have reached their “end-of-life.”
    • The PROs are entrusted with the responsibility for collection and channelisation of e-waste generated from the ‘end-of-life’ products.
    • In 2017-2018, the companies were supposed to have collected 10%.
    • This would rise to 70% by 2023.
  • Supervision of CPCB and SPCBs
    • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and SPCBs shall conduct random sampling of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market to monitor and verify the compliance of the provisions.
    • The CPCB now has plans to inspect each of the 178 recyclers.


Other initiatives

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, has initiated an E-waste Awareness programme under Digital India initiatives to create awareness among the public about the hazards of e-waste recycling by the unorganised sector.
  • The programme stresses the need for adopting environmentally friendly e-waste recycling practices.
  • The general public is encouraged to participate in ‘Swachh Digital Bharat’, by giving their e-waste to authorised recyclers only.



Section : Environment & Ecology