Solar photo-voltaic rooftop has emerged as a potential green technology to
address climate change issues by reducing reliance on conventional fossil fuel
based energy. This paper deals with how solar energy may not be as green as it
may seem, and can cause great harm to the environment.
This problem arises when solar photo-voltaic panels used in the generation of
electricity are not effectively disposed of or recycled. Since these panels are
made out of materials very harmful for the environment, their effective disposal
and recycling plays a huge role in contributing to the ideals of sustainable
development in the nation. Additionally, the problem of poor management of
E-waste in the country has also been dealt with as it is the policies regarding
E-waste management that govern the disposal and recycling of solar panels.
Lastly, the researcher has also given various suggestions to improve the current
situation in the country.
The universe is finite, it’s creatures finite and its resources finite. If left
unchecked, life will cease to exist. It needs correction. It is the curse of the
knowledge of this impending doom that has led the world towards switching to
renewable sources of energy. One of the most prominent sources of such renewable
energy is the energy generated through solar radiation.
The question that arises out of the above statement is that, whether solar
energy is actually as clean and green as it seems to be. This paper deals with
how generation of electricity and power through solar radiation has certain
implications, which may change the perspective of the people towards this
“green” source of energy.
The researcher has relied on both primary and secondary data in order to analyse
the situation of E-waste management in India and its implications on the
environment and sustainable development of the nation as a whole.
Disposal of Old Solar Panels
The concept of generating electricity faces many drawbacks, but one that majorly
harms the environment is the ineffective disposal of solar panels used in the
generation of electricity once they have reached the end of their lifespan.
Constant technological advancements have led people to upgrading the phones and
computers they use at the drop of a hat. This already has led to a huge pile up
of E-waste not just in India but all over the world. The ineffective disposal of
solar panels only adds to this problem, thus harming the environment to a huge
WEEE Directive, 2012
Waste of electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), refers to old cell phones,
fridges, manufacturing materials, etc. It is one of the fastest growing waste
streams in EU, expected to grow up to 12 million tonnes by 2020.
This can cause a major environmental hazard that can severely affect the health
of the people and the climate as well. In order to tackle this situation, the
WEEE directive has been put in place in the European Union, in order to
facilitate recycling of E-wastes, including solar panels that have reached the
end of their lifespan.
The first WEEE directive came into force in 2002 and made it easier to recycle
E-waste. Later on, the directive was revised in 2012 in order to tackle the
already increasing waste stream and came into force in 2014.
E-Waste Management Rules, 2016
The Government of India enacted the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 in order to
tackle the same problem of increase in E-waste streams. The legislation lays
down provisions for recycling of E-waste materials generated by producers,
consumers, dismantlers and recyclers alike. The applicability of these rules is
extended to components, consumables, spares and parts of electrical and
electronic equipment (EEE) in addition to the equipment as listed under Schedule
Schedule III of the Rules lays down the targets of recycling such equipment
by producers and authorisation given to producers to do so as well. The disposal
of solar panels that have reached the end of their life are also covered under
The rules give guidelines to set up collection centres to collect E-waste for
the purpose of recycling and also lays down guidelines to make the collection of
E-waste easier. The rules were recently amended in 2018 in order to revise the
targets for waste collection and recycling.
Hazardous & Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016
These Rules were enacted to complement the E-Waste Management rules and deal
with disposal of Hazardous waste generated as a result of manufacturing of
electrical and electronic equipment and also their use by middlemen and
The Relationship Between Sustainability And E-Waste Management
The world commission on Environment and Development, 1987 has defined
sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present
without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs
development consists of three pillars, viz., economic development, social
development and protection of the environment.
As we can see, protection of the environment is essential for future generations
to meet their own needs. Thus, it is only logical to deduce that something like
disposal of solar panels, which if not done properly can greatly harm the
environment, is a necessary aspect to consider for sustainability and
Many hazardous chemicals are used in the making of photovoltaic cells, which are
the devices used to collect and store energy from solar radiation. Improper
disposal of these would greatly harm the environment which would greatly
contradict the very concept of sustainable development.
E-waste management and Sustainable Development can be linked easily and this
is possible through:
# Creating policies for recycling of waste and their effective disposal.
# Imposing penalties for the same, if rules are not followed.
# The study of E-waste management should be integrated with the Study of
Sustainable Development, as both are so inextricably connected that achieving
sustainable development without proper disposal of E-waste is almost impossible.
The researcher has gone through various research papers and articles which focus
on the problem of poor management of E-waste in the country.
The most relevant ones have been stated below and the researcher has relied
on facts and figures as stated in these papers and articles:
# Challenges in manufacturing and end-of-life recycling or disposal of solar PV
This paper deals with the problems regarding disposal and recycling of Solar
Photovoltaic Panels. It also deals with the sever adverse effects on the
environment if not done properly. However, the paper does not deal with the
legal aspect of the same, and hence, differs from this paper.
# Solar rooftop in India: Policies, challenges and outlook
This paper deals specifically with the policies regarding solar rooftops in
India, the policies that govern them and the challenges faced due to these
policies. This paper however, does not make use of empirical data as part of its
research and relies entirely on secondary data.
The researcher has chosen empirical form of research where primary data has been
collected by the researcher herself, through surveys conducted. The research is
a combination of qualitative as well as quantitative data. Focus has been placed
on the citizens of India since the issue prevails throughout the country. The
researcher seeks to understand the level of awareness among the people when it
comes to legislations regarding disposal of e-waste and the outlook of people
towards environment protection. Therefore, empirical form of research was
The Primary Data has been collected by way of survey amongst various people. All
participants are either citizens of India or residents of India and will be
directly affected by the E-waste management policies of India. The Sample Size
The survey aims to gather people’s opinions of E-waste management policies in
India and also aims to make people aware about the current situation of E-waste
management and the legal provision in place to regulate the same.
The data collected through the survey carried out above deals with the awareness
about the harmful effects of improper disposal of Solar Panels at the end of
their life cycle and the rules and regulations enacted towards improving the
conditions arising due to this problem.
Awareness about the working of solar panels
According to the data collected above, not many people are aware about how solar
panels function and how they are supposed to be disposed at the end of their
life cycle. According to the data collected, 48% of the people have no idea
about this, and 44% are not sure. This leaves only 8% of the population who
actually know the implications of solar energy.
The notion that solar energy is the cleanest form of energy generation that
exists is not entirely true. Just because energy is generated through the
infinite resource of sunlight, does not mean that it is the cleanest source of
energy available. Manufacturing and disposing of solar panels have huge
environmental implications that people fail to consider. Thus, this notion is
based on mere assumptions and the number of people looking into the actual facts
and implications of energy generation are very less.
Awareness about rules and guidelines enacted for management of E-waste
As stated above, people do not know the actual workings of a solar power plant,
and the huge implications it may have on the environment in the long run. It
would be wrong to expect them to know about the rules and regulations laid down
by the Government to tackle the harmful effects of disposal of solar panels.
Many housing societies in the country have started using solar power for various
purposes like water heating, emergency electricity and so on. They do so in the
name of clean energy, but fail to understand that various rules and regulations
need to be adhered to when the time comes to dispose off the solar panels. Only
when the people are aware of such regulations, can they effectively use solar
energy to their advantage without actually harming the environment.
Opinion on the viability of Solar Energy
The opinion of the participants as to the viability of solar energy projects in
the country was also gathered. The participants were told about the extremely
large stream of E-waste that was being generated in the country and how disposal
of solar panels would just grossly add to the problem.
The participants still thought that generating electricity through solar
radiation was a viable option. This can be attributed to the fact that the
advantages of solar energy greatly outweigh the disadvantages of the same. The
participants were also made aware of the various rules and regulations enacted
by the Government in order to tackle the situation, which may have contributed
to their opinion.
Recycling as a solution?
80% of the population feel that recycling of solar panels at the end of their
lifespan is a good solution to the problem stated above. The population feels
greatly about generation of power through solar radiation, because of the
benefits to the environment. They feel that recycling will negate the problem of
disposal of solar panels, which would make solar energy one of the best options
for generating electricity.
Effect of this survey on participants
The survey was created to carry out a dual purpose. The first purpose was to
gather the opinion of the participants about solar energy and its generation.
The second was to provide the population with the minimum basic information
about the implications of generating electricity and power through solar
48% of the participants agreed to thinking twice about the viability of solar
power projects after taking this survey. This goes to show that a large chunk of
the population does not have even the basic information about such solar power
projects. When the participants were faced with reality, their opinions did not
totally change, as they still supported solar energy projects, but they were
definitely more aware about the consequences that may affects the environment.
E-Waste Management And Disposal of Solar Panels In India
Even though the Government has enacted various rules and regulations regarding
proper disposal and recycling of E-waste, their implementation in various states
does not present a particularly rosy picture. This was noted in the case of
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy Vs Union
of India and Others
 before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
The case dealt with dumping of hazardous waste and E-waste into water bodies
which had severe adverse implications on marine life, marine quality, water
quality and the environment in general.
The Supreme Court looked into the various guidelines enacted by State
Governments and also looked at the status of their implementation. The Supreme
Court referred to a CAG report which stated that over 75% of the state bodies
were not implementing these laws. This only goes on to show that E-waste
management has been totally neglected by the State Governments, and does not fit
well with the ideals of sustainable development.
Legal Awareness With Respect To E-Waste Management
As seen from the above survey, it is clear that the population was not exactly
aware of the legal provisions in place in order to regulate the management of
E-waste streams in the country. This does not present a good picture about
E-waste management in the country.
This would lead to the fact that it is not entirely the fault of the State
Governments that the legal provisions for effective disposal and recycling of
hazardous waste and E-waste are not implemented. When the people themselves do
no have much idea about these provisions, no one will be there to keep a check
on various Government bodies. No one has the requisite information to challenge
the Government bodies when it comes to E-waste management.
India has one of the strongest judicial systems in the world, that too with a
lot of power. The fact that the provisions enacted for preservation and
betterment of the environment are not followed can easily be challenged in the
courts of law. But, people are just not aware enough to do so.
Recommendations And Conclusion
Following are some recommendations based on both, the survey and other secondary
data, that would greatly improve this situation and may even lead to a big
change in E-waste management:
The people residing in the country need to be educated about the various
provisions in place for the management of E-waste. This would lead to an
increase in awareness which may lead to proper implementation of the policies
laid down for the same.
Special Authorities may be set up in order to keep a check on other State
Bodies, as to whether the policies laid down by the Government are being
followed or not. This authority may even be set up under the National Green
Proper E-waste collection centres should be set up, in a manner that they are
easily accessible by everyone. This would result in more people recycling
E-waste, thus greatly reducing the burden on the Government.
It must be ensured that the solar power projects being brought into action do
not use materials harmful to the environment for manufacturing photovoltaic
cells. This would serve a great purpose when the time comes to dispose the solar
panels used in these projects.
A budget can be allocated to ensure proper E-waste management throughout the
Lastly, the people must be motivated to use the 3 Rs, i.e., Reduce, Reuse and
These are only a few recommendations made by the researcher, in order to improve
the current ailing situation of poor E-waste management in India. There may be
several other ways to combat this problem.
The Government of India must act on this situation with immediate effect, as
this greatly hampers the sustainable development of the nation, thus greatly
affecting the future generations. It must be made sure that the generation of
electricity through solar radiation must remain as clean and green as people
think and want it to be.
Concluding the statements and assertions made above
, it may be said that the
problem of poor management of E-waste needs to be effectively addressed by the
nation and its states. India must begin at the local level, which include
implementation of existing policies regarding E-waste management policies and
also setting up authorities to keep a certain check on the State bodies. On a
national level, the Government must take initiatives to educate the people about
E-waste management and its implications, in order to increase general awareness
about the same. These are the only ways in which such a devastating problem can
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