SustainabilityInternational E-Waste Day 2023 Shines Light on 'Invisible E-Waste' and Urges Global...

International E-Waste Day 2023 Shines Light on ‘Invisible E-Waste’ and Urges Global Action

This year International E-Waste Day on 14 October 2023 will operate under the slogan “You can recycle anything with a plug, battery or cable!” This theme highlights the problem of invisible e-waste – electronic items that often go unnoticed when they are disposed of. Many people don’t realize these items count as e-waste because they don’t look like typical gadgets or devices, but they contribute significantly to the e-waste problem.

According to the United Nations, in 2023, each person on the planet is expected to produce around 8 kilograms of e-waste. This adds up to a 61.3 million tones of electronic waste worldwide, which is more massive than the Great Wall of China! Shockingly, only about 17.4% of this waste, which contains both harmful substances and valuable materials, will be properly collected, treated, and recycled. The rest, amounting to 50.6 million tones, could end up in landfills, get burned, traded illegally, or mishandled in sub-standard conditions or stored in households.

India has now become the largest e-waste producer in the world after China and the United States. The Central Pollution Control Board reports that India generated 1.71 million metric tons of e-waste, while the global e-waste generation stood at 59.40 million metric tons. What’s concerning is that more than 95% of India’s e-waste is managed by the informal sector, which complicates the issue even further.

According to a study by KPMG and ASSOCHAM, computer equipment accounts for nearly 70% of e-waste in India, followed by telecom/phones (12%), electrical equipment (8%), and medical equipment (7%).

E-Waste (Management) Second Amendment Rules, 2023: The Ministry of Environment, Forest (MoEFCC) introduced the E-Waste (Management) Second Amendment Rules of 2023 on 30th January, 2023. These rules aim to modify the existing E-Waste (Management) Rules of 2022. Under these new rules, producers must provide detailed information about the components of their equipment, as well as their compliance with hazardous substance reduction requirements when requested by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). This change eliminates the requirement to include such information in the product user documentation.

The amendment also adds two new substances to the list of exemptions in Schedule II of the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2022 – cadmium and lead in solar panels/cells, solar photovoltaic panels/cells/modules, and lead in medical devices, excluding implanted products.

The amendment to Rule 5 ensures the use of approved destruction technologies for managing refrigerants in refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment. This change aims to improve the sustainable management of such waste materials.

The E-Waste (Management) Second Amendment Rules of 2023 introduce three new schedules providing detailed categories of electrical and electronic equipment and their components, consumables, parts, and spares, along with their exemptions according to the rules.

The rapid growth of the IT and communication sectors in India has led to a massive increase in the use of electronic equipment. Frequent upgrades in electronic products mean people are discarding old gadgets more often, contributing to the e-waste problem. This situation demands greater attention to recycling and better e-waste management.

“Invisible e-waste” refers to electronic waste that often goes unnoticed because it doesn’t look like typical e-waste. Examples of invisible e-waste include electric and electronic toys, e-cigarettes, power tools, smoke detectors, wearable health devices, smart home gadgets, e-bikes, e-scooters, or simply cables.

If electronic devices and components are not discarded properly as they are not identified as e-waste mostly they land up in landfills or incinerators. These items contains lead, mercury, cadmium, and flame retardants which are hazardous and can percolate soil and water sources and can cause danger to human health and ecology.

Additionally, these devices contain valuable resources, including precious metals like gold, silver, and copper, as well as Critical Raw Materials essential for eco-friendly technology. When e-waste isn’t recycled properly, these precious materials go to waste.

Market Influences: The increasing purchasing power and disposable income have led to a steady rise in electronic sales. Manufacturers continuously introduce new products with improved features and services, encouraging users to replace old items with newer models. This trend has prompted electronic goods manufacturers to seek raw materials from recycled e-waste.

However, the e-waste market in India faces challenges such as low awareness, safety concerns, and high recycling costs. Many consumers aren’t aware of the hazardous nature of e-waste components or the consequences of improper disposal. E-waste management in India is mainly handled by urban municipal or state government bodies, but the disassembly process can expose workers to harmful substances.

To overcome above problems E-Waste Management companies like GEM Enviro Management Private Limited, Sampurnearth, 3R recycler, Green Roots,RLG, 3R Zerowaste, Rekart Innovations Pvt Ltd and A A Garg & Go are doing great job for creating channels for proper collection and disposal of e-waste in accordance with a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) approved EPR Authorization plan in India.

Producers are encouraged to take responsibility for collecting and properly disposing of e-waste generated from their products. Initiatives like Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), Design for Environment (DfE), Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (3Rs), and technology platforms for recycling are promoting responsible e-waste disposal, recycling, and reuse to create a circular economy and reduce e-waste problems.

These companies seem to have made serious effort in this direction since last several years.

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