E-waste Management and Recycling

E-waste – “The Cause of Concern” 

With the growing population, the demand for electronic equipment has increased by leaps and bounds. Rapid industrialization and modern lifestyle have made consumers dependent on electronic devices.

The rise of e-waste is a global environmental enigma. In recent times, the E-waste generation has developed into a huge crisis for the Industrial and manufacturing sectors. Tossing up the E-waste into the garbage or trash can is not the proper way of disposal. 

The Manufacturing rate of smartphones is very high (79%) when compared to the desktop (21%) and household appliances (17%). Every day, an ever-increasing number of products are developed along with the production of waste.

What is E-waste?

E-waste or Electronic waste is the end of life or unfit electronic products that are not able to be used, which end up as E-waste in landfills. In the FY 2021-2022, India has generated the highest number of electronic products in the E-Market. Massive Growth in the IT sectors and automation increase the utilization of electronic products to a large extent.

The evolution of the IT sector and telecommunication industry has reached its peak in the 21st century with multiple product proliferation and developments in the electronic equipment industry. As the production and consumption rate of electronic products increases, the waste generation proportionally rises on the other side.  

E-waste collection is predominantly higher than usual why?

Rapid Up-gradation of Electronic gadgets and accessories forces the user to throw away the out-trend or old products, which spikes the collection of E-waste generation. 

Many electronic gadgets such as computer desktops, smartphones, printers, scanners, transceivers, and household appliances such as (Televisions, Washing machines, Refrigerators, and so on) upgrade rapidly in no time, which forces the consumers to purchase new products and throw away the old or outdated products. These electronic products get replaced quickly with new advanced add-on features, which led to an increase in the E-waste generation.

The deposition of E-waste is becoming a major crisis for India. The collection of E-waste in India has seen a massive growth of 31% higher than the previous year. E-waste is not similar to organic or plastic waste. E-waste is different in all aspects when compared to general waste. Toxic waste streams can cause harm to humans and the earth vigorously.

Current status of E-waste Management in India 

India ranks as the 3rd largest contributor to E-waste generation around the world with a whopping 3.2 million tonnes of electronic waste collected each year. E-waste management in India hit the screen with vast collection and deposition of waste in the past 2-3 years. In India, unorganized sectors handle 95% of the collection and recycling process. India’s E-waste policies are not structured rightly as the waste can be in the source and not in the end-of-life stage. 

India recycles only 3% of the total E-waste generated, which results in an enormous collection and deposition of E-waste into the lands with no concern. The Unregulated streams of E-waste deposited on the grounds cause soil fertility, contaminate the water, human health, and more.

In India, E-waste collection and monitoring are not systematic with enough facilities to recycle the E-waste with proper measures. E-waste generated in India is mostly handled by unregulated sectors, causing pollution to the land and the water bodies. As India becomes digital, the waste transforms into E-waste, liberating more toxic effects on the environment. 

E-waste segregation and recycling rules in India 

As per the Government of India, Ministry of environment, climate and forest change the E-waste recycling and segregation rules have been published in 2016 as “E-waste Management rules” 2016, to eliminate the improper E-waste collection, management, and deposition of E-waste in landfills. 

E-waste rules and regulations in India are, 

  • Consumers who incorporate toxic chemicals as their raw materials should take complete responsibility to take care of the product until its end-of-life phase. 
  • Producers and manufacturers of electronic components should assign a PRO (producer responsibility organization) to carry out all the protective measures such as take-back system, collection, sourcing of products, and much more. 
  • Bulk consumers of electric and electronic equipment should install collection centers for collecting and channelizing the E-waste for reprocessing and recycling facilities.
  • Manufacturers should maintain a record of the quantity of E-waste manufactured, transported, disposed and taken back for recycling operations. 
  • Manufacturers of E-waste should mandate the monitoring of E-waste handling proceedings when transported, i.e. it should not affect the environment. 
  • Producers of E-waste need to streamline the storage & collection centers, and recycling facilities, and channel the treatment of E-waste from collection to disposal. 
  • Separate E-waste accumulation targets have been instructed by the manufacturer. 
  • Manufacturers should take responsibility for the collection and disposal of the E-waste as per the manifest authorized by the SPCB (State pollution control board). 

Types of E-waste 

E-waste can be classified into many streams based on the application they are used for and its equipment operation. The recycling/recovery of valuable substances in the formal sector is achieved in a secure environment and with the utmost care to prevent environmental or Societal harm. Metals are efficiently recovered with the use of advanced processes and technologies. Recovery from formal sector units is economically feasible because large quantities of products can share the high cost of capital equipment and technology. Recovery in formal recycling is efficient, and metals at the trace level may also be recovered. Some technologies operate with a no-landfill approach. 

E-waste is categorized into main two types:

  • Information technology waste
  • Consumers’ electrical and electronics waste
  • Telecommunication E-waste 
  • Medical E-waste 
  • Household appliances
  • Monitoring and controlling equipment
  • High-power electrical appliances

Challenges to E-waste Management in India

Globally, India ranks 3rd position in the generation of E-waste with improper E-waste handling guidance and workflow. Some of the influential factors challenging the E-waste collection and disposal are, 

  1. Lack of Infrastructure for E-waste Management
  2. The reluctance of authorities in eradicating the E-waste management
  3. Lack of incentive schemes for maintaining E-waste streams 
  4. Lack of awareness of harmful effects caused by E-waste
  5. Mishandling of E-waste end of phase products in the market
  6. Enforcement and design of regulations are inadequate

Decoding the E-waste effects on the environment 

E-waste is no longer to be compared with organic waste. E-waste comprises more toxic chemical compounds. 

E-waste generated by throwing old smartphones is the major contributor to the deposition of chemical substances in the land and water. Gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper, and silver are precious metals that are included in e-waste. E-waste is a vital resource that is being discarded into the waste streams with no possibility of recycling.

E-waste is not only for computers, smartphones, and other electronic assets but also includes cables, batteries, and toxic electronic compositions. 

Current India depends on the informal sectors for the major collection of E-waste collection and treatment policies. These unorganized sectors will not be primitively following the rules and guidelines of CPCB and the E-waste processing sector. As per the UN reports, only 20% of the e-waste generated is recycled and the remaining wastes will be left with no treatment and scattered on the land, causing the fertility of the soil and aquatic bodies. 

E-waste – The Inevitable resource

E-waste has many vital resources incorporated that are left without any concern in the landfills. Recycling and processing E-waste can preserve a mammoth scale of finite resources from our planet. E-waste recycling is a process of extracting valuable materials from discarded electronics, such as copper, gold, and platinum. 

E-waste recycling is beneficial for our environment as it reduces the amount of waste in landfills and unnatural chemical emissions into the atmosphere that is generated during the process of extracting these materials from the earth. E-waste recycling creates new products that are useful to people and reduces the environmental impact of manufacturing new products.