By- Smt. Kalpana Palkhiwala : Electronic waste or E-waste is one of the rapidly growing environmental problems of the World. In India, the electronic waste management assumes greater significance not only due to the generation of our own waste but also dumping of E-waste particularly computer waste from the developed countries.
Electronic waste which is popularly known as E-waste can be defined as electronic equipments, products connected with power plugs, batteries which have become obsolete etc. E-waste also encompasses ever growing range of obsolete electronic devices such as computers, servers, main frames, monitors, TVs and display devices, telecommunication devices such as cellular phones and pagers, calculators, audio and video devices, printers, scanners, copiers and fax machines besides refrigerators, air conditioners, washing machines, and microwave ovens. E-waste also covers recording devices such as DVDs, CDs, floppies, tapes, printing cartridges, military electronic waste, automobile catalytic converters, electronic components such as chips, processors, mother boards, printed circuit boards, industrial electronics such as sensors, alarms, sirens, security devices. E-waste contains over 1000 different substances many of which are toxic and require to be handled in an environmentally sound manner.
There is an estimate that the total obsolete computers originating from offices, business houses, industries and household is of the order of 2 million. Manufactures and assemblers in a single calendar year are estimated to produce around 1200 tonnes of electronic scrap. The consumers finds it convenient to buy a new computer rather than upgrade the old one due to the changing configuration, technology and the attractive offers of the manufacturers. Due to the lack of governmental legislations on E-waste and standards for disposal, these toxic hi-tech products mostly end up in landfills or are partly recycled in a unhygienic conditions or thrown into waste streams.
The Government has notified the Hazardous Waste [Management & Handling] Rules, 1989 which were amended in 2000 and 2003 under the Environment [Protection] Act, 1986. These Rules regulate the generation, collection, storage, treatment, disposal, export and import of hazardous waste. According to these Rules, all hazardous wastes are required to be treated and disposed off in specially designed secured landfills. These Rules provide for the development of common hazardous waste treatment, storage and disposal facility thorough joint venture partnership. These industries are required to obtain authorization from the State Pollution Control Boards(SPCBs). Under the Rules, no import of hazardous waste is allowed for disposal and the same is only allowed for recycling, reuse or reprocessing.
Initiatives for Management of E-waste
The Ministry of Environment & Forests constituted a Task Force in August, 2007 to finalize the Guidelines for Environmentally Sound Management of E-waste. The Guidelines have been approved and placed on the web-site of the Ministry [www.envfor.nic.in] and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) (cpcb.nic.in). They shall apply to all those who handle E-waste, which include generators, collectors, transporters, dismantlers, recyclers and stakeholders of E-waste irrespective of their scale of operation.
E-waste contains several different substances many of which are toxic and potentially hazardous for environment and human health, if these are not handled in an environmentally sound manner. Classification of E-waste shall depend upon the extent of presence of hazardous constituents in it.
E-waste contains toxic substances such as lead and cadmium in circuit boards; lead oxide and cadmium in monitor Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs); mercury in switches and flat biphenyls (PCBs) in capacitors and transformers and brominated flame retardant on printed circuit boards, plastic casing, cable and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cable insulation that release highly toxic dioxins and furans when burned to retrieve copper from the wires.
The provisions under the Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 1989 as amended in 2000 and 2003 include E-waste. The residues and wastes generated from the operators in electronic industry are considered as hazardous wastes. All electronic manufacturing units are required to have authorization under these rules. Further, as per the provisions of these Rules, Electrical and Electronic Assemblies are covered under category B 1110 of the Schedule 2 applicable for Import and Export of Hazardous Wastes, and the wastes under this category are only permitted for direct reuse and not for recycling or final disposal.
The manufacture of electronic goods can lead to air pollution due to gaseous emission comprising of solvent vapours, emission from doping materials, particulate matter and other toxic emissions. And water pollution due to the effluents generated during the manufacturing processes along with the solid waste such as residues, sludge, filter cake, etc. during the manufacturing processes.