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BW Businessworld

'90% Of E-Waste Is Recycled In Environmentally Crude Manner'

All the metro cities in India like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, and Kolkata are major generators of e-waste followed by other major cities like Ahmedabad, Indore etc.

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A recent study has revealed that India generates around 18.5 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of electronic waste per year, which is likely to touch 30 lakh by 2018. Government, public and private industries contribute over 70 per cent of e-waste; 15 per cent comes from households.

E-waste has serious environmental and health implications.

In an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld, Shrikant Sinha, CEO of NASSCOM Foundation discusses the various facets of e-waste. Edited Excerpts:

Why e-waste is a huge environmental concern?

E-waste is a huge environmental concern because of three reasons. First, E-waste consists of toxic substances like Barium, Cadmium, Brominated flame retardants (BFRs), Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Secondly, most of the e-waste particularly in developing countries is recycled in an environmentally hazardous manner which cause a lot of soil, air and water pollution. Third, E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream with India being the fifth largest generator of e-waste according to United Nations University report in 2014.

Which cities are the most prominent in production of e-waste? What are the main sources of e-waste?

All the metro cities in India like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, and Kolkata are major generators of e-waste followed by other major cities like Ahmedabad, Indore etc. The major sources of e-waste are computer equipment; followed by telecommunication equipment, electrical equipment and medical equipment. Other sources include e-waste generated in the households.

How does NASSCOM aim to spread awareness about e-waste?

NASSCOM in partnership with ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), NASSCOM Foundation, MAIT and CEAMA has embarked upon an awareness programme on environmental hazards of electronic waste under ‘Digital India Initiative’.

The campaign aims to enhance awareness amongst stakeholders involved in e-waste management in 10 urban areas to streamline the system through collective effort in the e-waste value chain. The 10 cities are Bhubaneshwar, Guwahati, Imphal, Indore, Kolkata, Moradabad, Panjim, Patna, Pondicherry and Ranchi.

What are some measures that can be taken to curb the menace of e-waste?

As an individual, we must ensure that we keep our e-waste separate from other and give it to an authorized recycler rather than the informal sector. This will encourage more people to enter into the formal recycling sector. The central pollution control board and the state pollution control board maintain a list of authorized recycler. Alternatively, you can also download the GreenE app or log on to the GreenE website to find out the details of the recycler in your area.

What are some of the methods for recycling of e-waste?

There are various physical and chemical processes available for formal recycling of E-waste. But the fact remains that almost 90 per cent of the e-waste is recycled with environmentally and technical crude methods.

What are some of the health implications of e-waste?

E-waste-connected health risks may result from direct contact with harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), or from inhalation of toxic fumes, as well as from accumulation of chemicals in soil, water and food.

What are some of the initiatives taken in the country to tackle the problem of e-waste?

The ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) had come out with E-Waste Handling and Management Rules in 2011 as part of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. The rules lay down the framework for management of e-waste in the country. As a result, we had quite a few formal recycling units start their operation in the country. 

In 2016 MoEFCC came out with the new E-Waste Management Rules as a successor to the older rules. These rules further strengthen the existing norms for e-waste management and also made producers responsible for implementing the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) through an effective take back program among other things.