In a period of just five years, India had recorded a growth of 43% in its e-waste generation. The country generates about 3.2MT of e-waste annually and the number is expected to increase in the coming years. Also, about 82 % of India’s e-waste consists only of personal devices. Why is all this alarming? What can the citizens do to control it?
The three major reasons that keep adding to the pertinent and grave issue of e-waste generation in India are:
- Till today e-waste in India is routed via the informal channels having no safety measures and mostly employing underage children. This is an issue in itself.
- When informal means are used to dispose of e-waste, hazardous substances like mercury, glass, lead, chromium, and arsenic, etc. reach the landfills and contaminate the environment. All this has bad repercussions on the health of those people residing in the vicinity of e-waste dumps.
- Lack of awareness regarding safe disposal of e-waste among people further makes the implementation of rules and guidelines difficult even after so many governmental initiatives and measures.
Besides the above-mentioned challenges, the increased generation of e-waste especially personal devices is because of the rise in the consumption of digital and smart devices at household levels. The sale and usage of gadgets such as smartphones, refrigerators, televisions, and washing machines, etc have increased drastically in the past couple of decades. At the office level, we have witnessed an enhanced usage of Information and Technology devices that are discarded and upgraded in a few years as the innovative technology hits the market. Also with the increased competition in the market, the equipment is manufactured with shorter durability. The concept of repairing and reusing is not yet followed in our country. Also, the ecosystem for the same must be strengthened, which is lacking somewhere.
Like we mentioned earlier progressive rules and guidelines have been laid down and manufacturers and brands are held accountable for a large number of e-waste generations yet very little could be done in terms of implementation of the rules and supervision.
The extended producer responsibility (EPR) rules make manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) responsible for re-collection of the sold devices after their durability is over otherwise it could pile up in the form of electronic waste. The same is then sent for recycling. To facilitate the process of collection and e-waste recycling the manufacturers and brands hire PROs, Producer Responsibility Organizations. They form a deal with the brands and help them in achieving mandatory compliance regarding electronic waste. They are given big targets. The Central Pollution Control Board or CPCB has formed goals for about five years for them depending on the trade of their electronics items and goods in the country. The system has been brought in place to control the generation of large amounts of e-waste. The rules have been strictly followed with participation from the manufacturers and brands. However, without the participation of the consumers, the practice of recycling the required number of e-waste is incomplete. The enforcement and implementation must be accelerated to control the menace of e-waste generation. Consumers must be made aware to make sure that the e-waste that they generate is handed over to the e-waste collection centers which can be further sent for recycling at the right time.
Apart from the mobile and smart devices, most commonly, tube lights containing hazardous mercury and glass as well as the big and small batteries form the part of e-waste at homes. Consumers must be taught, at least, to restore the discarded electronic items in their original packaging. Most packaging comes with toll-free contact numbers of the nearest collection center. Many of these collection centers are also set up by many e-waste management companies in India like Namo E-Waste. Citizens must act responsibly and send discarded electronic items for e-waste recycling. Informal methods of electronic recycling and disposing of e-waste must be avoided at any cost.
Also instead of dumping away tonnes of old electronics, citizens must learn to fix them if they have life left in them. Promoting the concept of fixing and repairing electronics items will help in generating jobs. Also, there are people who are ready to accept refurbished electronics such as TV sets, refrigerators, and telephones, etc. There is a ready ecosystem regarding consumption at that level. We need to channelize the old items to make them reach people who need them. All this will help sort the issue of e-waste generation in India to a large extent.