Electronics industry is the world’s largest and fastest growing industry. The last decade has seen a tremendous growth in the manufacturing and consumption of electronic and electrical equipments all over the world. As a consequence of this growth, combined with spurring product obsolescence and lower costs, discarded electronic and electrical equipments or ‘e-waste’ is now the most rapidly growing waste stream in the world.
E-waste is end-of-life electronic and electrical equipments. In simpler words, they are gadgets run by electricity and comprises of which the broken, surplus or obsolete. It includes equipments like discarded computers, printers, phones, TVs, fridges, toaster, electronic toys, etc.
India, currently, is estimated to generate more than 2.7 million tonnes of e-waste annually. The generation is estimated to grow manifold in the coming years, making it a critical issue. However, e-waste is not just a problem of waste quantity or the volumes generated. The concern is compounded because of the presence of toxic materials like lead, mercury, cadmium, certain brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and many other toxic chemicals.
In a developing country like India, most e-waste lands up in the informal sector, where it is recycled with little consideration to health and environment. Open burning, acid baths, unventilated work spaces and crude handling of chemicals are typical of these operations, where vulnerable groups like children and women are employed in large numbers. With no safety equipments at hand, the workers in some of the recycling hotspots, spread across the country, are exposed to a cocktail of toxic chemicals every day. The unregulated practices also release hazardous materials in air, water and soil, thereby endangering our environment.
E-waste also contains valuable non-renewal, hence, there is the necessity to recycle and are recover these resources and reduce the burden on mining of virgin materials. Often some of these valuable and scarce materials are lost due to improper dismantling and recycling. Efficient recovery of these materials without any adverse impact on environment requires a set of complex operations and highly advanced technology.
Some of these complexities and concerns for human health and environment, has prompted the government and the policy makers in many parts of the world to involve the producers/product manufacturers to own responsibility for the end-of-life disposal of these products and introduce a policy tool ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ (EPR).
Toxics Link has been a key campaigner for a policy and sound management of e-waste in the country. The organization has played a significant role in pushing the government for a separate rule on E- waste. The notification of the of E-Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011 which came into force in May 2012, marked a huge success.
The Rules are based on EPR principle and assign responsibility to the producers for collection and processing of e-waste. One-year period was provided to the stakeholders, especially the producers, to set up systems and infrastructure for an effective take back programme and further channelisation of e-waste. Unfortunately, till date, there is not much progress on the implementation of these Rules.
In its endeavor to advocate for sound management of e-waste, to improve compliance and implementation of the Rule and to foster awareness on the issue of E waste, the organization continues to carry out various surveys, research, reports, workshops, advocacy and awareness building and sensitization exercises and campaigns.