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E-Waste And It's Impact On Environment

Electronic waste or e-waste is defined as removed electronic devices which is of no use anymore. The electronic devices which are destined for reuse, resale, recycle or is to be disposed off is also known as electronic waste. Informal processing of e-waste in developing countries can lead to adverse human health effects and environmental pollution . Electronic waste components which is of no further use such as CPUs, contains harmful components such as lead, cadium or beryllium.

Recycling or disposal of e-waste may involve significant risks to health of the workers there and the communities in developed countries so great care must be taken to avoid unsafe exposure in recycling operations and leaking of materials such as heavy metals. E-waste or electronic waste is when an electronic product is discarded after the end of its useful life. The rapid increase in technology means we are creating a large number of e-waste every passing minute.

E-waste includes discarded computers, office electronic equipment, electronics, mobile phones, television sets and refrigerators. Rapid changes in technology results in a fast growimg surplus of electronic waste around the world which is not good for all of us. Electronic waste is one of the most emerging threat to the environment of world as well as INDIA. Burning E-waste may generate dioxins, furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polyhalogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (PHAHs), and hydrogen chloride which is highly dangerous and can cause pollution and damage to environment.

Amount of electronic waste worldwide:
An estimated 50 million tons of E-waste are produced each year globally. The USA discards 30 million computers each year and 100 million phones are disposed of in Europe each year. There is an agency for protection of e-waste named Environmental Protection Agency which states that only around 15-20% of the electronic waste is recycled rest of the waste is directly thrown in landslides, According to a report by UNEP[1] titled, Recycling from E-Waste to Resources, the amount of e-waste being produced which includes mobile phones and computers could rise by as much as 500 percent over the next decade in some countries, such as India.

The United States is the world leader in producing electronic waste, producing about 3 million tons each year. China already produces about 2.3 million tons domestically, second only to the United States. The world and society revolves around technology today and need the upgraded version of it which is one of the main reasons that we all are contributing at large to electronic waste. Since iphone is invented cell phones have became the top source of electronic waste because they are not made to be used more than two years. As of 2013, Apple has sold over 796 million iDevices.

Cell phone companies make cell phones that are not made to last so that the consumer will purchase new phones. Companies give these products such short life spans because they know that the consumer will want a new product and will buy it if they make it. Previous studies show that India has generated 0.4 million tons of e-waste in 2010 which may increase to 0.5 to 0.6 million tons by 2013�2014. In general, e-waste is generated through recycling of e-waste and also from dumping of these wastes from other countries.

More of these wastes are ending up in dumping yards and recycling centers, creating a new challenge to the environment and environment policy makers as well. In general electronic gadgets are meant to make our lives happier and simpler, but the toxicity it contains, their disposal and recycling becomes harmful. Most of the users are unaware of the negative impact of rapidly increasing use of computers, monitors, televisions and other electronic devices.

Impacts Of E-Waste:

It's a fact that a lot of electronic waste is being sent to INDIA and is being produced within also there is a large impact on the society and environment of the country which should be stopped or slow down as soon as possible. The chemicals released in the air when the e-waste is burned releases toxic and harmful chemicals such as lead and mercury in the air. This can affect humans if connected with the harsh chemicals and can cause many types of illness such as those of respiratory, reproductive, development and nervous system.

Due to lack of awareness and knowledge humans are risking their health and environment also. The Indian Supreme Court had banned importing of e-waste into the country in 1997, there are still 1200 tons entering the country in a year. It has been estimated that just the United States alone sends 80% of its total e-waste to India.

Electronic waste affects nearly every system in the human body because they contain toxic components including Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Polybrominated Flame Retardants, Barium and Lithium. INDIA has emerged as the fifth largest producer of electronic waste in world. Computer devices amounts for nearly 70% of e-waste, with the contribution of telecom sector being 12%, medical equipment being 8%, and electric equipments being 7% of the yearly e-waste production.

The Government, public sector companies, and private sector companies generate nearly 75% of electronic waste; with the contribution of individual household being upto 16% only. If we see city wise Mumbai tops the list in producing electronic waste, followed by NEW DELHI, BANGLORE and CHENNAI . State-wise Maharashtra ranks first in generation of electronic waste, followed by Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

The pollutants which come out of electronic waste while recycling or while disposing it off are responsible for groundwater contamination, air pollution and soil acidification. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change has notified E-waste management rules 2016. The rules for the first time in INDIA introduced Extended Procedure Responsibility (EPR). EPR stipulates for collection 30% waste in first two years and up to 70% in seven years. Nearly 95% of processing of electronic waste is carried out by the unskilled informal sector which is another harmful reasons for them.

Case No. 1: A case study of Banglore, India.[2]
P.K. Jatindra and K. Sudhir Department of Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Jaypee University of Information Technology, Waknaghat, Solan.

Banglore is generating around 1200 tones e-waste every from computers and peripherals per year. From the fact that 30% of all equipment in IT industry became obsolete every year and end up as E-waste. Representatives from two governments authorizedre cyclers Ash recyclers and E-Parisaraa have conducted surveys in the field of WEEE recycling, and the authors participated in this discourage.

Currently, the main options for the treatment of electronic waste are involved in reuse, remanufacturing and recycling, as well as incineration and land filling. The hierarchy of treatment of E-waste encourages reuse of whole equipment first, remanufacturing and up gradation, then recovery of materials by recycling techniques, and as a last resort, disposal by incineration and land filling. However land filling of E-wastes can lead to the leaching of lead into the ground water.

If the CRT is crushed and burned, it emits toxic fumes into theair (Ramachandra and Saira, 2004). All electronic equipments contain printed circuit boards which are hazardous because of their content of lead (in solder), brominated flame retardants (typically 5-10% by w eight)and antimony oxide, which is also present as a flam retardant (typically 1-2% by w eight) (Devi et al., 2004).

Recycling of electronic waste takes care of both waste treatment and valuable material recovery and hence has both ecological and economic relevance. Precious metals recovered from E-waste have a wide application in the manufacture of electronic appliances, serving as contact materials due to their chemic al stability and their good conduction properties. On a broader scale, analyzing the environmental and societal impacts of E-waste reveals a mixture of benefits and costs (Alastair, 2004). Proponents of E-waste recycling claim that greater employment, new access to raw materials and electronics, and improved infrastructure will result due to E-waste recycling activity.

This will further improve the region's progress towards prosperity. This study focuses to document existing sources of E-waste stream s along the life cycle including product assembly, pre and post usage, management and disposal and identify to imp roved practices based on E-waste collection, flow and recycling system in Bangalore city of India . This study was conducted in the month of March, 2009 in the Banglore city of India.

Apart from survey and data collection in the city, outer reaches of it like Banglore Rural District and Dobaspet Industrial area were also chosen for assessment of current practices followed in the E-waste management. Bangalore is the information technology hub of India having more than 1700 IT companies generating 8,000 tonnes of E-waste annually.

For this study the tracer item chosen was the personal computer (PC). A tracer item in this context stands for an electrical or electronic item which is surveyed along its whole life span, from the cradle to the grave. The definition of one tracer item PC represents all sorts of PCs. Reliable statistics of measurable recycling practices and the high dynamics in the information technology sector were reasons for the decision to use the PC as tracer.

Case No. 2: Case Study on Taiwan's E-waste Management System[3]

In the 1970s and 1980s, Taiwan struggled with municipal solid waste management. Dumping in rivers and on streets was common, and informal recyclers dismantled used equipment without environmental or health protections. In 1997, Taiwan established its �4-in-1 Recycling Program�, which aimed to reduce municipal solid waste, increase recycling, and improve the efficiency and safety of the recycling industry.

Under the 4-in-1 Program, manufacturers and importers of new goods pay fees that are used to subsidize the recycling of those goods when they are discarded. As a result of this program, waste quantities in Taiwan have decreased from 1.14 kg/day/person in 1997 to 0.4 kg/day/person in 2011. This program also led to the establishment of Taiwan's formal recycling sector.

In particular, the waste electrical and electronic appliance (WEEE) recycling industry in Taiwan grew significantly, from zero formal recyclers in 1997 to 19 facilities at the end of 2011. Taiwan's collection rates of 50% or more for recycling of several WEEE items are on par with or higher than the take back rates of developed countries such as Japan and Korea, and twice as high as the estimated 25% WEEE recycling rate in the United States.

This report documents the development and implementation of Taiwan's 4-in-1 Recycling Program, with particular focus on WEEE recycling, and is intended to serve as an information resource for policymakers around the world.

Management Laws In India:

India's Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF)[4] is the ministry made for reducing and recycling electronic waste with producers for the first time under the E-waste management and handling Rules 2011. The rules, which form part of the Environment Protection Act, came into effect from 1 May 2012. Manufacturers and importers of computers, mobile phones will be required to come up with e-waste collection centres or introduce take back systems.

These rules will apply to every producer, consumer and bulk consumer involved in manufacture, sale, purchase and processing of electronic equipment or component. India currently generates 400,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, of which only 19,000 tonnes is recycled, according to manufacturers. It believes around 40% of obsolete electronic products sit unused at home or in warehouses, as people do not know what to do with them and there is no systematic mechanism for dispose of them.

Under the new rules, producers will have to issue consumers with information on disposing of equipment after use to prevent e-waste from being dropped in domestic waste, and must make the public aware of the hazardous components present.

Commercial consumers and government departments will become responsible for recycling the e-waste they generate, channeling it to authorised collection centre or ensuring it is taken back by suppliers. They will have to maintain e-waste records and make these available to state Pollution Control Boards or other authorities.

A provisional rule drafted by the Ministry last year included a ban on import of second-hand electronic equipment for charity or other re-use � much of which passed into the hands of informal recyclers. This clause has been removed from the final rule.

The various legislation enacted by the Government of India are:
  • The Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Amendment Rules, 2003;
  • Guidelines for Environmentally Sound Management of E-waste, 2008; and
  • The e-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011.

Following Supreme Court directions, the states have given a set of hazardous waste laws and built a number of hazardous waste disposal facilities in the last ten years. However, the CAG[5] report found that over 75 per cent of state bodies were not implementing these laws.

The problem of proper disposal and management of E-Waste requires the Government authorities to enact strict regulatory laws. The problem has reached at an alarming and crucial stage. There should be proper guidelines and the Government must enact a regulatory body to ensure proper implementation of such guidelines.

The E-waste have to be disposed of properly else they will turn out into a big problem killing a lot of people and causing serious health problems to many others. The government body should look into this matter so that it can be controlled and so that no one is harmed by this act. Proper laws and acts would only work and there should be a regular check over it so that no one is violating the laws and following it in a proper way.

  1. UNEP- United Nations Environment Programme, June 1972
  2. Banglore E-Waste Case- AIR 2009
  3. Taiwan E-Waste Case- AIR 2003
  4. MoEF- Ministry of Environment and Forest, 1985
  5. CAG- Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Article 148

Written By: Jash Raj Gupta, Amity University, Lucknow
Email: [email protected], 9794896528

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