National Scenario Of E-Waste

Dr. Ashok K. Rathoure

2014-05-29 04:04:39



National Scenario of E-Waste

Technological advancement and increased usage of Telecom, IT, Electronic digital equipments and leisure toys have created an alarming situation of increased stream of electronic waste (e-waste) globally known as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Electronic waste or e-waste is an emerging problem as well as a business opportunity of increasing significance, given the volumes of e-waste being generated and the content of both toxic and valuable materials in them. The fraction including iron, copper, aluminum, gold and other metals in e-waste is over 60%, while pollutants comprise 2.70%. Given the high toxicity of these pollutants especially when burned or recycled in uncontrolled environments, the Basel Convention has identified e-waste as hazardous and developed a framework for controls on transboundary movement of such waste. The Basel Ban, an amendment to the Basel Convention that has not yet come into force, would go one step further by prohibiting the export of e-waste from developed to industrializing countries. 100 million PCs became obsolete in 2004. Not surprisingly, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) today already constitutes 8% of municipal waste and is one of the fastest growing waste fractions. Countries such as China and India face a rapidly increasing amount of e-waste, both, from domestic generation and illegal imports. For emerging economies, these material flows from waste imports not only offer a business opportunity, but also satisfy the demand for cheap second-hand electrical and electronic equipment. In addition, the lack of national regulation and/or lax enforcement of existing laws are promoting the growth of a semi-formal or informal economy in industrializing countries. An entire new economic sector is evolving around trading, repairing and recovering materials from redundant electronic devices. While it is a source of livelihood for the urban and rural poor, it often causes severe risks to humans and the local environment.


In a digitized information technology world, the use of computers, cell phones, consumer electronic appliances and the like have reached enormous proportions and have become an integral part of routine lifestyle. The high rate of obsolescence of these modern equipments and the fast changing technology gives rise to replacement of the products, thereby increasing e-waste. Developing countries including India also face the threat of the replacement market of developed countries by way of transboundary shipments of used electronic goods and items. The main reason why e-waste has become a global concern is the presence of toxic and hazardous substances in these equipments such as Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Arsenic, Barium, Beryllium and Brominated Flame-Retardants (BFR). In the absence of an effective method for collection of e-waste and managing the hazardous constituents, it is likely to be disposed off in landfills resulting in high environmental risk and health hazards to human beings and animals or end up at the backyard units recycling such wastes using highly polluting technologies. The disposal of e-waste containing such hazardous substances in an environmentally sound manner has become a challenge in India and at global levels. Many countries have initiated steps for collection and safe disposal of e-waste. In India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India (GOI) has published Guidelines for Environmentally Sound Management of E-waste in March 2008. E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream, growing at 3-5% per year, which is three times faster than average waste. Outside the EU, an important percentage of this waste is still land filled, incinerated or recovered without any pre-treatment, which allows dangerous substances such as heavy metals and brominated flame retardants to leak into the environment. Some estimates suggest that 40 million tonnes of e-waste is generated each year. The e-waste inventory in India for the year 2005 showed approximately 1, 46,180 tonnes and is expected to exceed 8, 00,000 tonnes by 2012.

National Scenario of E-Waste

It is reported that in India, about 1,46,180 tonnes of WEEE/E-waste is generated from computers, TVs, refrigerators and washing machines during 2005, which is expected to exceed 8,00,000 tonnes by 2012. Sixty-five cities in India generate more than 60% of the total WEEE/E-waste generated in India. Ten states generate 70% of the total WEEE/E-waste generated in India. Maharashtra ranks first followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab in the list of WEEE/E-waste generating states in India. Among top ten cities generating WEEE/E-waste, Mumbai ranks first followed by Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Surat and Nagpur. The growth rate of computer has been estimated to be 25% and all other items in the range of 15 to 20% annually. It was established that the obsolescence rate of computers is seven years, for TV, washing machine and refrigerator is fifteen years. There is no large scale organized WEEE/E-waste recycling facility in India and the recycling exists in un-organized sector. In this context, an entrepreneur in India embarked on establishing a WEEE/E-waste treatment facility with an annual capacity of 7200 tonnes per annum near a major urban centre, which is generating more than 25,000 tonnes per annum WEEE/E-waste in India.

For the recycling of e-waste, India heavily depends on the unorganized sector as only a handful of organized e-waste recycling facilities are available. Over 95% of the e-waste is treated and processed in the majority of urban slums of the country, where untrained workers carry out the dangerous procedures without personal protective equipment, which are detrimental not only to their health but also to the environment.

Growing EEE Industry in India

                     i.            Information and telecom fasted growing industry verticals.

                    ii.            PC sales growing at 18% annually 2009-10.

                  iii.            Notebook sales at 65% annually 2009-10.

                  iv.            Consumer electronics market growing at 13%-15% annually.

                   v.            120 million installed base of TVS.

                  vi.            Cellular subscriber up by 96.86% in 2009; Installed base crossed 300 million in 2010.

Informal Recycling Concerns (negative)

         i.            High-risk backyard operation-Adverse impact on environment and health.

        ii.            Environmental Hazard-Inefficient and polluting technologies used for material recovery- crude methods.

      iii.            Health hazards- Operations in small congested unsafe areas occupational.

      iv.            Loss of resources-inefficient process.

       v.            Social Impacts-vulnerable social groups-women, children and immigrant labourers.

E-waste Generation in India

                     i.            Annual e-Waste: 3, 82,979 MT (2007).

                    ii.            8, 00,000 MT 2012 (CPCB estimates).

                  iii.            Total e-Waste available for recycling and refurbishing: 1, 44,143 MT (2007).

                  iv.            Actual e-waste Processed: 19000 MT.

International Scenario of E-Waste

South Africa has ratified the Basel Convention (1989), to do which seeks to restrict the movement of hazardous waste between countries, specifically from developed to developing countries. The con­vention is also concerned with waste minimization and the environmentally sound management of waste. However, it has not ratified the Bamako Convention (1991), which bans the import of haz­ardous wastes into Africa and minimizes and controls the trans-boundary movement of hazardous waste on the continent. According to DEAT, the Bamako Convention has not been ratified due to its potential impact on trade in waste. South Africa and countries like Nigeria, have an interest in importing waste for recycling in the future. Over the past year, the pressing problem of e-waste has attracted more interest around the world than ever before, thanks in no small part to the work of the StEP Initiative, its members and its supporters. In 2011, an image of e-waste exported to Ghana earned first prize in UNICEF’s prestigious annual photography competition and many more films and photographs have begun to shine a spotlight on the grow­ing problems associated with the informal treatment of e-waste in developing countries. Important steps have also been made in the development of e-waste-related policy and regulation. In January 2012, the European Parliament and Council finally arrived at a compromise on the so-called WEEE Recast, setting the ambitious target of separately collecting 85% of e-waste generated (65% of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) sold) or roughly 20 kg per capita per year by 2020. To meet such ambitious targets, the European Parliament and Council also called for a substantial increase in the collection of e-waste, along with increased media coverage and dissemination of infor­mation on e-waste collection. In recent years the Chinese government has issued a number of environmental laws, regulations, standards and technical guidance related to e-waste management. In the United States as of early 2012, 25 states have passed e-waste recycling laws, 18 of which include bans on placing e-waste in landfills, with Pennsyl­vania to follow suit in January 2013. Japan continues to fa­vour the promotion of a sound material cycle society based on the 3R approach (Reduce, Re-use, Recycle). India’s first e-waste management and handling rules came into effect on 1 May 2012. Australia, New Zealand and 23 additional states in the Pacific are developing a regional e-waste man­agement strategy, in addition to the first e-stewardship programme in the region. On the African continent, a growing number of states are developing national e-waste legislation, with South Africa and Nigeria leading the way and countries like Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia also making impor­tant strides based on the polluter pays principle.

While these developments in e-waste policy and regulation are encouraging, a number of challenges and shortcomings still hamper the development of a sustainable reverse supply chain and continue to allow unsustainable leakages of both valuable and toxic materials from e-waste. The majority of countries worldwide still lack effective e-waste policy and reg­ulation, as well as appropriate e-waste collection systems and infrastructure. Furthermore, without more clarity and harmonization of e-waste policies from international bodies, even those country-level policies and regulations that do exist are limited in their effectiveness due to their patchwork na­ture. Finally, more research on consumers’ role in establish­ing successful e-waste management systems is required to further improve consumers’ return rates for used electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), a critical bottleneck even in those countries with long histories of e-waste management. In the EU, e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream, growing at 3-5% per year, which is three times faster than average waste. Outside the EU, an important percentage of this waste is still landfilled, incinerated or recovered without any pre-treatment, which allows dangerous substances such as heavy metals and brominated flame retardants to leak into the environment. Some estimates suggest that 40 million tonnes of e-waste is generated each year.

Rules and Regulations

National and Social Policies, Laws and Regulations

Policies/ laws/ regulations related to WEEE/E-waste management provide an institutional framework for their implementation. Extended Producer Responsibility or Product Take Back forms the basis of policy framework in developed countries. WEEE directives provide a regulatory basis for collection, recovery and reuse/ recycling targets in EU. The development of legislation and compliance structure as per EU directives is an on-going process in all EU countries. The member states have to guarantee minimum collection, recovery and reuse/ recycling targets as specified in the directive. The fundamental principle of WEEE directive is Extended Producer Responsibility, where producers are responsible for WEEE/ E-waste take back. Those European countries, which are not part of EU either follow EU directive or more stringent standards based on WEEE/ E-waste management. Majority of countries have regulations similar to WEEE directives. Countries like Japan have regulations focused on Reuse, Recycling and Recovery. Other countries like Canada and Australia are developing their systems based on the similar principles of Extended Producer Responsibility. Policy, laws and regulations applicable for the management of e-waste are:

a)       The National Environmental Policy 2006.

b)       The Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

c)       The Hazardous wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 1989 as amended in 2003 and 2008.

CPCB India is finalizing the set of rules and most recently issued a formal set of guidelines for proper and eco-friendly handling and disposal of the electronic waste. The Ministry of Environment and Forests is now processing the rules framed by electronics equipment manufacturers with the help of NGOs. According to the new guidelines issued by CPCB in 2007, e-waste is included in schedules 1, 2 and 3 of the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2003 and Municipal Solid Waste Management Rule, 2000. Each manufacturer of a computer, music system, mobile phone, or any other electronic gadget will be personally responsible for the final safe disposal of the product when it becomes a piece of e-waste. Department of Information Technology (DIT), Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, has also published and circulated a comprehensive technical guide on Environmental Management for Information Technology Industry in India. Demonstration projects have also been set-up by the DIT at the Indian Telephone Industries for the recovery of copper from Printed Circuit Boards. As an effort to make the users aware of the recycling of e-waste, many electronic companies such as Apple, Dell and HP have started various recycling schemes. Nokia India announced its recycling campaign for the Indian region. The program encouraged mobile phone users to dispose of their used handsets and accessories, irrespective of the brand, at any of the 1,300 green recycling bins put up across the priority dealers and care centers. Nokia is also planning to launch an electronic waste management program. The Department of Environment, Delhi government, has also decided to involve rag pickers in general waste management in the capital. These rag pickers will be trained, given uniforms, ID cards and hired to clean waste. The department also intends to involve eco-clubs, now running in over 1,600 government and private schools in the Capital, in this initiative since it is these eco-clubs that will be interacting with rag pickers of that particular area.

National Environment Policy 2006 (NEP)

A Comprehensive policy published by the Ministry of Environment & Forests that was approved by the Union Cabinet on 18 May 2006. NEP lays stress on:

         i.            Encourage reuse and recycling

        ii.            Strengthening information sector and Providing them a legal status

      iii.            Establish system for collection and recycling of materials to recover resources

      iv.            Environmentally safe disposal of residues

       v.            New rules for ESM


E-waste including in Hazardous waste Rules

E-wastes were regulated under Hazardous Wastes (M & H) Rules, 1989 as amended in 2003 and 2008 and are categorized as:

         i.            Waste generated in electronics industry –Schedule 1.

        ii.            Schedule 2 hazardous contents (cadmium lead, mercury etc.) beyond prescribed threshold limits applicable for qualifying as hazardous waste.

      iii.            Regulating transboudary movement.

      iv.            Schedule 3 Sl.No.A1180: Waste Electrical and Electronic Assemblies (export/import).

       v.            Schedule 3 Sl.No.B1110: Electrical and Electronic Assemblies Valid for Direct Reuse but Not Recycling (export/import).


E-waste Guidelines-2008

Guidelines for Environmentally sound Management of E-waste’ published in March 2008 by GOI [MoEF & CPCB]. This includes Main Features of e-waste Guidelines and basic guidance for handling of e-waste.  Basic guidance document recognizing fundamental principles:

                                          i.            Producer Responsibility (ERP)

                                         ii.            RoHS ( Restriction on Hazardous Substances)

                                       iii.            Best practices

                                       iv.            Insight into technologies for various levels of recycling

There is a need for a separate legislation mentioned in the guidelines for effective implementation of the principles governing the e-waste management’


From Guidelines to Rules

·         NEP provision for legal recognition and strengthening of the informal sector for collection and recycling of various materials and for access to institutional finance and relevant technologies.

·         The Environmental Protection act 1986 has provisions to make rules.

·         Separate rules for e-waste to provide for the effective control on the e-waste channels and its recycling activities.

·         The unanimity amongst stakeholders recommended separate rules (stakeholder consultation held on 10 April 2008)- evolution of the e-waste rules.

·         Draft e-waste rules prepared by GTZ, MAIT, GP, TL, Experts, Brand representative give to MoEF 2009.

·         Draft rules notified by MoEF in May 2010.

·         Final Rules notified by MoEF in May 2011.

Rules for E-waste

In the recent years, there has been increasing use and dependence on electrical and electronic gadgets like mobile phone, personal computers, laptops, server, data storage devices, photo copying machines, TV (CRT/LED/LCD), washing machine, refrigerators and air conditioners, etc. resulting into generation of large quantities of E-waste. The high rates of obsolescence of the above mentioned items coupled with steady rise in the demand have also resulted in substantial growth in e-waste generation. There is no comprehensive and latest inventory of E-waste in the country however, as per preliminary estimates, the annual e-waste generation in India has been estimated to be 0.8 million tonne by 2012. An UN report estimates that the world wide generation of e-waste is around 30 to 50 Million tonne per annum. The electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) have valuable materials and hazardous/toxics substances in their components. The electronic products and electrical equipment after their useful life may not cause any harm if it is stored safely in households/stores. However, if the E-waste is opened-up and attempts are made for retrieval of useful components or material in an un-scientific manner or if the material is disposed in open, then it may cause health risks and damage to environment. E-waste can be considered as a resource that contains useful material of economic benefit for recovery of plastics, iron, glass, aluminum, copper and precious metals such as silver, gold, platinum and palladium and lead, cadmium, mercury etc. However, at the same time presence of heavy metals (As, Cd, Hg, Pb etc.) and other toxic substances such as polychlorinated bi-phenyls (PCBs), etched chemicals, etc. may pose risk to health and environment during handling and recovery operations. E-waste is a problem of increasing proportions especially when crude methods are adopted for recovery of useful components from E-waste. There is a need to encourage recycling of all useful and valuable material from e-waste so as to conserve the ever depleting natural resources. Electronic component are increasingly made from recycled materials, for example for making new LCDs, more than 50% of indium is sourced by recycling used LCDs. The E-waste thus presents a scenario of urban mining for recovery of ferrous/non-ferrous/ rare earth metal and precious metal in addition to plastics and glass. However, presence of hazardous and toxic substances in the component of e-waste necessitates environmentally sound management of e-waste including collection and recycling/treatment in an environmentally sound manner. The E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011 have been notified with primary objective to channelize the E-waste generated in the country for environmentally sound recycling which is largely controlled by the un-organized sector who are adopting crude practices that results into higher pollution and less recovery, thereby causing wastages of precious resources and damage to environment.