Technology has become an integral part of our lives. It changes fast, and people are frequently upgrading their devices, be it their laptops or mobile phones. The discarded ones – which are no longer used because the item isn’t functional anymore or has become obsolete – is considered e-waste.
Buying new and updated gadgets helps us personally and professionally by simplifying things, but do we think about the amount of electronic waste we are generating? Apart from the e-waste generated at a personal level, industry also discards huge quantities of old equipment, adding to the e-waste pile.
Only a small portion of this e-waste is recycled – the rest is simply thrown away. This e-waste can lead to serious health and environmental issues. Many electronic goods have toxic elements such as lead, and in large quantities, which can pose serious health risks.
E-Waste in India
Electronic waste is emerging as a serious public health and environmental issue in India, which generates more than 2 million tonnes of e-waste annually.
More than 95% of India’s e-waste is processed by waste pickers, popularly known as ‘kabadiwalas’ or ‘raddiwala’. This informal network of workers is responsible for the collection, dismantling and recycling of such e-waste and operates outside regulated or formal organizational systems, often illegally.
Only a very small amount of e-waste generated in India gets recycled. This can be attributed to low awareness about e-waste and its recycling, as well as the fragmented nature of the unorganized sector and its lack of knowledge regarding the safety measures related to waste collection and recycling. Appropriate e-waste management should be a mandatory requirement for anyone purchasing anything that would eventually contribute to e-waste.
Certain changes are already underway in the e-waste recycling front. Several NGOs are running awareness program across schools, colleges, hospitals and offices along with door-to-door e-waste collection drives to educate people about the potentially harmful effects of indiscriminate and casual disposal of e-waste and its recycling procedures.
The Union Government has introduced rules related to e-waste. These also include a non-compliance penalty. India needs to follow stringent recycling procedures and build more e-waste recycling units. The unorganized sector should be brought under proper supervision and successfully monitored, so that the majority of the e-waste generated can be recycled properly.
Interestingly, the e-waste sector in India is emerging as a business opportunity of increasing significance, given the volumes of e-waste being generated. Placing the responsibility of recycling e-waste on the producers, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) had laid down certain rules in 2012 related to e-waste.
To help industry deal with its e-waste, the CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre (CII-Godrej GBC), Hyderabad has been creating greater awareness on e-waste management, regulatory requirements and compliance, and emphasizing the 3Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It is imperative that as the Indian economy grows, the focus on sustainable development should remain strong. As India moves up the development ladder, we can expect increased consumption of natural resources, increased waste generation and ecological degradation. Managing this prudently will help India to improve the lives of its citizens and minimize adverse impact on their health. Recycling should be considered as an imperative by us all and practiced on a large scale.