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India’s growing e-waste issue

September 25, 2017

Due to ineffective implementation of e-waste management rules, a substantial amount of the country’s waste is going to the informal sector.

As a result of the poor execution of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s 2016 E-waste (Management) Rules, an article by the The Sunday Guardian points out that “a large chunk of such waste is pumped into the informal centres of e-waste recycling, causing health and environmental hazards.”

The Ministry’s rules were instituted last year in a bid to both improve the country’s recycling practices and reduce the production of e-waste, making “producers liable to collect 30% to 70% (over seven years) of the e-waste they produce”. However, despite the Ministry’s hopes, environmentalists have warned that these rules are being poorly implemented, with a study carried out by Assocham revealing that “only 1.5% of the total e-waste generated is recycled by formal recyclers”.

As India is one of the world’s biggest producers of e-waste, producing approximately 1.7 million tonnes last year, this inability to effectively recycle is causing concern; particularly as the Assocham study also indicates that by 2020 India’s mobile phone e-waste will grow by 1800% and its computer waste by 500% in comparison to the levels recorded in 2007.

When questioned by The Sunday Guardian, Swati Singh Sambhyal, Project Director at the Centre for Science and Environment, revealed that 98% of e-waste is going to the informal sector.

Sambhyal said, “The EPR rules need to be strongly implemented to fix responsibility with producers as is done in many developed nations like in Europe. Even when the government has laid down rules for companies to take back their products after they run out of their life, we do not see any such initiatives from these companies to meet their targets. Presently, they are not even taking back 10% of their products, nor do we see companies making their consumers aware of such a scheme run by electronic manufacturing companies.”

As well as the lack of effective recycling practices carried out by manufacturers, it seems that ignorance among consumers is also contributing to the problem, with Sambhyal going on to say, “Companies never advertise or campaign about how to do awa unused electronic products. The companies do not even provide a separate leaflet on what to do with their electronics when it becomes redundant. And as laymen, consumers sell their unused or malfunctioning electronic products to their kabaadi walas, which then goes into the informal sector. Why can’t we have a system where an amount would be deposited with the company at the time of buying their electronic products which would be returned to them with a rate of interest when they give back the same product to the company for recycling? This would also add as an incentive for consumers to return such goods,”Sambhyal concluded.  

With the negative effects of e-waste being widespread and severe, including respiratory ailments and air pollution from chemicals such as cadmium and mercury, India’s Central Pollution Control Board is already taking reactive measures, issuing notices to “225 electrical and electronics manufacturers for failing to meet provisions under the new e-waste management rules.”


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