Flip Side of India’s Electronic Boom is a Massive Chunk of E-waste
E-waste needs careful disposal and recycling – it can release carcinogenic toxins, and pollute air, soil and water.
What Is It?
Simply put, electronic waste or E-Waste refers to “discarded or obsolete electrical or electronic devices”. In today’s world, e-waste covers a lot of ground – it includes everything from computers and televisions to fridges and phones.
E-waste is broadly divided into two categories – hazardous and non-hazardous. The hazardous components include lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium and many other substances which are both toxic and difficult to safely dispose. Additionally, electronic goods use a category of elements called “rare-earth minerals” – these are difficult to mine and a limited resource and should thus be properly recycled from discarded products.
With over 40 million tonnes of e-waste generated each year, e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste categories globally. To make matters worse, according to UN International Telecommunication Union estimates, only about 13% of all the e-waste produced is recycled and that too, often with inadequate safety measures.
What’s India’s Stance?
India’s volume of e-waste is large and growing. Ten years ago, it was predicted that India’s e-waste would cross 8 lakh tonnes by 2012. Economic growth has meant growing electronic waste – a UN Report entitled ‘Recycling – From E-waste to Resources’ estimated that in comparison to 2007 levels, e-waste in India from computers and mobiles in 2020 would rise 500% and 18 times respectively.
As per the E-Waste (Management and Handing) Rules 2011, the producer of the electronic goods is responsible for the safe disposal of the product after the consumer has discarded it. In practice though, this is often not adhered to.
Earlier this year, a Parliamentary committee recently reported that developed countries are shipping e-wastes to developing nations in order to save the costs associated with proper disposal and recycling. The Committee noted that our waste disposal mechanisms were inadequate – especially given the penetration of electronic goods across the length and breadth of the country – and recommended setting up collection centres and registered recycling centres all over the country to ensure safe disposal.
As of May 2015, there are only 111 collection centres in 15 states and 126 registered recyclers in 12 states for e-waste. By some estimates, less than 3% of the e-waste produced in India is received by authorised recycling facilities.
This is deeply worrying because e-waste needs careful disposal and recycling – it can release carcinogenic toxins, and pollute air, soil and water if not properly treated.
What Can You Do?
There are lots of things you could do! You could contact the manufacturer and check if they have an e-waste collection or recycling scheme. Alternatively, check if there’s an authorised e-waste collection/recycling centre near you and if possible, drop off the waste there. Most importantly, do be careful to separate your e-waste from your other waste products and be cautious of how these are disposed.
Properly recycling and reusing e-waste is by far the best way to deal with the problem – dumping them in landfills can be massively polluting and any attempt to incinerate them poisons the air.
Make that extra effort. Your environment will thank you.
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