How is E-waste Recycled in India?

E-waste management is one of the biggest challenges that India face today. As the technology evolves, the old hardware needs to be upgraded with the new one, elevating the amount of e-waste. Moreover, every hardware has a defined lifecycle whose end-stage is disposal.

As per a report, 3.2 million tons of e-waste was generated in 2019 in India, making it the third most e-waste generating country in the world, with China and the USA being the first and second, respectively. As per another CPCB report, India collected just 10% of the waste. It shows that a proper e-waste management system must be in place to sustain the environment.

What comprises e-waste?

E-waste can include any discarded electronic device – televisions, servers, monitors, keyboards, air conditioners, mobile phones, CPUs, laptops, tablets, hard disks, CDs, flash drives, and RAMs. These devices are made up of toxic materials, including plastics, cobalt, selenium, arsenic, mercury, lead, nickel, etc. When not recycled properly, these materials can cause irreparable damage to the environment. These materials should only be recycled by authorized bodies that know the right recycling technique.

Some important terms related to e-waste in India

The Government of India as well as companies are trying their best to reduce e-waste disposal in India with the implementation of new recycling strategies and protocols. However, a lot still needs to be done when it comes to proper e-waste disposal. Here are some terminologies related to e-waste management that every individual should be aware of:

1. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

EPR is a responsibility bestowed upon the producers of electronic devices, related to e-waste disposal and recycling. Since the manufacturers are responsible for e-waste disposal, it makes them more dedicated to manufacture environment-friendly products. However, the thing to note here is that the responsibility can be monetary, physical, or both.

In the past, the local bodies were responsible for e-waste disposal. EPR shifts the responsibility of waste disposal from the governing authorities to the product producers.

 2. 3 Rs of Waste Management

The 3 Rs of waste management is Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Every organization needs to be aware of these terms and their applications to improve its waste management practices. Let’s explain them briefly.

  • Reduce – The first step to e-waste management is trying to reduce the amount of waste produced by organizations. If less waste is produced, there will be fewer efforts to manage it. Organizations should ensure proper hardware management and lifecycle to increase the lifetime of the devices.
  • Reuse – An organization can try to reuse electronic devices by replacing the parts rather than replacing the entire hardware. For instance, try upgrading the RAM or hard disk of a computer rather than replacing the entire system.
    Note: Instead of buying new hard drives organization can reuse Old hard drive after wiping their data with the help of hard drive data eraser software.
  • Recycle – Recycling old IT assets is the final step in waste management. The materials from which the electronic goods are produced can be recycled to produce new products. Since the same materials are reused, it helps reduce the adverse effects the materials have on the environment.

3. Design for Environment (DfE)

DfE is a product design strategy that involves environment-friendly procedures at every stage of the product lifecycle – extraction, production, transit, and functioning. For instance, significant e-waste is generated while extracting raw materials. With the DfE plan, the manufacturers need to ensure that the e-waste is channelized to an authorized recycler.

Government Regulations

E-waste Management and Handling Rules, 2011

The government introduced e-waste laws in 2011, citing the exponential rise of e-waste generation in India. These rules are applicable for consumers, producers, and manufacturers of electronic and electrical equipment. Here are the highlights:

  1. Producer’s Responsibility – The producers will be responsible for collecting the e-waste generated during manufacturing and sending it for recycling. They also need to ensure that the waste goes to the authorized recyclers and dismantlers only. As per the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), they also need to take care of proper e-waste recycling at the product’s ‘end-of-life.’
  2. Consumer’s Responsibility – Consumers need to ensure that the e-waste is sent to the authorized recyclers or the producers. They should also maintain a detailed record about all the disposed products so that it can be audited by the State Pollution Control Committee.
  3. Recycler and Dismantler’s Responsibility – The recyclers and dismantlers need to register at the State Pollution Control Board under Rules 9 and 11. They should adhere to the rules specified by the board and ensure that the process is environment-friendly.

E-waste (Management) Rules 2016

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) implemented E-waste Management Rules 2016 on October 1, 2017. These laws updated 21 new products under the rules that the concerned parties need to recycle. It also gave added duties to the producer under the EPR program. The main highlight of this law was the introduction of the Producer Responsibility Organisation, which is an individual body to ensure proper channelization, recycling, and dismantling of e-waste. It can be financed by a producer, dismantler, or both.

Scope of Improvement in India’s E-waste Management

Although the Government of India is stepping up in its goal for e-waste management with robust laws and initiatives, there is still a need for improvement. Some of the challenges observed are improper e-waste disposal by unauthorized shops, lack of proper technologies, and public unawareness.

It is the responsibility of everyone, be it consumers, manufacturers, dismantlers, recyclers, or government bodies, to ensure a healthy and sustainable environment.

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