Electronic waste (also known as e-waste) is discarded electrical or electronic devices. Improper disposal and processing of this waste can lead to adverse human and environmental damages. There are now more mobile phones than the number of people around the world. With our tendency to just throw away products and continually purchase new ones, this creates a global e-waste problem.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 were enacted and became effective from 1st May, 2012. Thereafter, the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 were enacted in super session of the 2011 Rules and came into effect from 1st October, 2016.
Every year the number is growing exponentially. According to ASSOCHAM, an industrial body in India the, Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of electronic waste is 30%. With changing consumer behaviour and rapid economic growth, ASSOCHAM estimates that India will generate 5.2 million tonnes of e-waste by 2020.
In total, it’s estimated that almost 50 million tons of e-waste will be generated in 2018. China led the way, with 7.2 million tons per annum, while the USA (6.3), Japan (2.1), India (2.0) and Germany (1.9) trail behind. Maharashtra ranks highest among the states followed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi and Karnataka in the amount of e-waste generated. Mumbai, the business capital of the country, produces the most e-waste at 96,000 metric tonnes (MT) every year.
However, as per the estimates of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, illegal import of e-waste in the country stands at about 50,000 tonnes annually. Then there is the Customs Tariff Act that says new computers can be imported in India for free, but it does not mention anything on used computers. Up to 90 per cent of the world’s electronic waste is illegally dumped in India. India has become the dumping ground for our e-waste, everything from computers, phones, televisions and white goods are illegally being exported to India.
India refuses to be the dumping ground for the world’s plastic waste. The Indian government has announced a complete ban on the import of solid plastic scrap into the country, as it deals with its own plastic crisis. India has banned imports of waste plastic a year after China, the world’s biggest importer of scrap plastic implemented a similar ban on western imports. The move is to reportedly close the gap between waste generation and recycling capacity. India generates 26,000 tons of plastic waste every day.
The common practice for household refuse disposal in rural areas is to dump solid wastes openly in backyard gardens or in an open space. Such indiscriminate disposal is an environmental hazard and can threaten human health and safety. Solid waste that is improperly disposed of can result in a number of problems. It can create a breeding ground for pathogenic microorganisms and vectors of disease, and cause a public nuisance due to unsightliness and bad smell. It can cause contamination of surrounding soil, groundwater and surface water, and it can also create fire hazards, physical hazards and have poisoning effects (from pesticides and insecticides). However, these problems can be avoided by using appropriate management techniques.
For all waste management issues, your role should be to engage community members and families in awareness of the solid waste problems in their area and try to change their behaviour. In doing so, it should be possible to have a clean, attractive and sustainable environment. Proper management of e-waste will help your community prevent communicable diseases and safeguard the environment in a sustainable manner.