More than 80 percent of electronic waste generated in the U.S. ends up in India, China or Nigeria, endangering the health of those countries’ poorest citizens who are forced to dismantle the often-toxic materials without adequate protection.
India’s rapidly growing mobile phone, PC and TV market has forced the country to take a hard look at their policies regarding e-waste. The facts are these - the Indian PC market is booming with PC and notebook sales coming in at 6.34 million units in 2006-07; mobile phones show a sales figure of approximately 93 million units mark in 2007; televisions, which currently register at 58 million units, are expected to increase to an incredible number of 234 million units in 2015.
While this is a good thing for the marketplace, it also means that the country also has a rate of obsolesce rate of 30% per year. Statistics show that approximately 2.2 million computers and 14 million mobile phones will be tossed away by end of this year. That means that the approximate e-waste generation in India is approximately 3,800,000 tonnes per year.
India also receives a large amount of e-waste through trade and illegal imports. Although India’s Hazardous Waste Rules of 1989 prohibit the “import of e-waste without prior permission from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF)”, import of e-waste is permitted if it is to be used for processing and reuse of the units’ raw materials.
Also permitted by law is the importing of second hand computers less than 10 years old and donations of computers to non-profit organisations. Additionally, an estimated 50% to 80% of e-waste is exported from the U.S. and is dumped in countries like India, where environment protection regulations are not nearly as stringent.
IT products manufacturers on 17 July proposed inclusion of a legislation exclusively for e-waste management in the existing waste management policy of the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
India generated 3.3 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2007 and is going to touch 4.7 lakh tonnes by 2011, therefore there is a great need for an inclusive eco-friendly recycling process, said a study released by MAIT-GTZ.
"Looking at the current scenario of the growing e-wastes in the country, I think the government should look at framing separate guidelines for the management and recycle of these wastes," said Manufacturers' Association for Information Technology (MAIT) Executive Director Vinnie Mehta.
At present, there are separate policies for bio-medical wastes and municipal solid wastes under the umbrella of hazardous wastes (management and handling) rule, but there is no separate regulation for recycle and management of e-wastes, whereas the wastes from electronic goods are growing at a faster pace, said the study.
The association along with other stakeholders in the discussion also advocated for inclusion of Extended producer responsibility (EPR) in the proposed guidelines, as it will make the IT component producers more accountable for the entire life cycle of the product.
"EPR should be made mandatory for all the producers of electrical and communication components and a producer's responsibility protocol should be there," said IT department special secretary M Madhavan Nambiar.
Mumbai seeking site for e-waste treatment
Mumbai, which tops the list in generating the highest amount of electronic waste in the country, is all set to have an exclusive site for e-waste.
Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) officials would be meeting this week to finalise a site exclusively to treat and dump e-waste.
Since e-waste management doesn't come directly under the purview of the municipal corporations, MPCB and MMRDA have come forward for this pilot project, the sources said.
A recent study has revealed that Mumbai is not just the leading generator of electronic waste in the country, but also that the rate at which the commercial capital is throwing away electronic goods is far higher than believed so far, the sources said.
The study shows that besides generation of 19,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually - inclusive of computers, televisions, refrigerators and washing machines- Mumbai receives a good amount of it through clandestine imports from the developed world.
The study also indicates that Delhi and adjoining areas are receiving a substantial part of Mumbai's electronic discards, both internal as well as imported, particularly computer printed circuit boards (PCBs) that are too dangerous to be handled in congested areas of Mumbai.
Besides officials of the two organisations, experts on waste management will also attend the meeting, which will dwell on finalising a site for treating e-waste for the entire Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
MMRDA has also mooted a site for construction and demolition wastes generated through projects implemented by the MMRDA, which is the biggest generator of construction and demolition waste due to its several infrastructure projects.
As there is no separate site for dumping such wastes, the sheer volume of waste generated overburdens the existing landfill sites.
Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR) recycle its e-waste at plants it had set up in various places, including one in the holy town of Haridwar. This plant has an annual recycling capacity of 12,000 tonnes.
Interstate transportation of e-waste
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), however, claim that e-waste can be carried to other states for recycling purposes, but cannot be dumped in other states.
Delhi employs 25,000 workers at its scrap yards, which handle 10,000-20,000 tonnes of e-waste annually. 25 per cent of the e-waste generated here are computers.
The scrap yard workers are unaware of the toxic substances in e-waste and hence take scant protection against any harmful effects. Instances of workers suffering from tuberculosis, asthma and skin diseases are common.
The workers have to handle lead, cadmium, zinc, mercury and various other toxic elements, which have the potential to harm human health and environment.
The e-waste contains significant quantities of toxic metals and chemicals, which affect blood systems, kidneys, brain, spleen and also interfere with regulatory hormones, causes skin diseases including cancer, neurological and respiratory disorders, and birth defects.
Shastri Nagar and Seelampur in Trans-Yamuna area are among scrap dumping and processing grounds in Delhi.
Some 94 per cent of the organisations in India do not have a policy with regard to disposal of IT products.
The Indian mobile phone market adds about six million mobile phones every month. With 256.55 million phones, mobile penetration in the country is at 22.52 per cent. India expects to reach 500 million subscribers by 2010-end.
Currently, there are over 75 million mobile users in India and the number is expected to increase to 200 million by 2008-end. India has about 16 million computers, which are expected to grow to 75 million by 2010, with more than over two million old machines waiting to be disposed.
The energy and raw materials used to produce millions of new mobile phones contributes to CO2 emissions.
Companies such as Nokia, Lenovo and HCL have formulated free take back programs and have outsourced recycling facility for old systems.
Motorola and LG have also joined Nokia and other companies in selling phones without the various toxic chemicals such as lead, calcium, mercury and many more, which affects health and the environment.
Nokia is encouraging the recycling of unwanted devices through a series of campaigns and activities, providing information on how to go about recycling old devices, chargers and other mobile accessories.
The products can be dropped off at Nokia's retail stores and Nokia Care Centres worldwide.
Using the best recycling technology, nothing is wasted. Between 65 per cent and 80 per cent of phones can be recycled.
Plastics that can't be recycled are burnt to provide energy for the recycling process and other materials are ground into chips and used as construction materials or for building roads.
In India, the total e-waste generation is approximately 3.8 lakh tonnes annually. And in the world, it is more than 20 million tonnes per year.
According to the third draft guidelines for environmentally sound management of e-waste issued by the CPCB, the inventory is expected to exceed eight lakh tonnes by 2012.
Sixty-five cities in India generate more than 60 per cent of the total e-waste generated in the country. Ten states generate 70 per cent of the total e-waste generated in India.
Maharashtra ranks first followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab in the list of e-waste generating states in India.
Among the top ten cities generating e-waste, Mumbai ranks first followed by Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Surat and Nagpur.
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