The tremendous growth and technological advancements in the electronic data management and communications have spurred economic growth and improved living standards. However, along with the benefits, the rising problem of electronic waste (e-waste) has created a major threat to the people and environment.
The high rates of obsolescence of products in use in the domestic sector such as TV sets, refrigerators, washing machines and mobile phones as well as computers give rise to substantial e-waste generation, and this is going up steadily, given the high growth rates in these segments. Even as India is trying to devise environment-friendly ways to dispose of garbage, the sector of e-waste destroying the balance of the nation’s ecological health has already started looming over. More worrying is the absence of a well-planned regulatory framework and close follow-up to dispose of or recycle e-waste, which is compounded further by a lack of general awareness.
In the 20th century, the information and communication revolution brought enormous changes in the way we organise our lives, our economies, industries and institutions. These spectacular developments in modern times have undoubtedly enhanced the quality of our lives, but these have led to manifold problems, including the problem of massive amount of hazardous waste and e- wastes, which is a threat to human health and environment and is critical to their protection. It constitutes a serious challenge to the modern societies and requires coordinated efforts to address it for achieving sustainable development.
According to an expert on e-waste, e-waste from old computers will jump by 500% and e-waste from discarded mobile phones will be about 18 times higher by 2020 in India. Such predictions highlight the urgent need to address the problem of e-waste in developing countries like India where the collection, management and the recycling process of e-waste is yet to be regulated properly and systematised. However, mere enactment of laws will not help if the enforcement is weak.
According to Toxics Link, a Delhi-based NGO, consumer awareness, another major responsibility of the producers, is critical in improving compliance, but, in the past one year, there has been almost negligible effort in this direction. There is no information on collection centres and collection points across many cities in the country, a major setback in rolling out the e-waste rules from May 1, 2012. The inefficient functioning of e-waste disposal system is running without hindrance in India and it is unlikely to change much in the coming days, as there is no monitoring or evaluation mechanism currently in place from the regulators, producers or consumers. It is also essential to conduct awareness programmes for public and all users.
In the current scenario, it is always possible that safety, human health and environment would be drastically endangered if concerted implementation of legislation and actions were not taken for efficient management and disposal of e-waste. It is good to note that the Government is pressing leading electronic companies to change, and to turn back the toxic tide of e-waste. Though there are various statutory regulations related to different types of wastes generated in industries and other sources, including e- wastes, there is no enforcement, especially in e-waste control and disposal. Let us examine the various types of waste generally generated in India and their related statutes.
(Read the full article in the April Issue of Safety Messenger Magazine 2016)