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About Invisible E-Waste


The WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment)Forum, in celebration of International E-Waste Day on October 14, 2023, engaged the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to determine the annual quantities of Invisible E-Waste items.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of the Study on Invisible E-Waste
  2. Recommendations from the Study
  3. Provisions regarding E-waste in India
  4. About the WEEE Forum

Key Highlights of the Study on Invisible E-Waste:

Invisible e-waste refers to electronic waste that often goes unnoticed due to its nature or appearance, leading consumers to overlook its potential for recycling.

  • Variety of Items: This category encompasses various electronic items, including cables, e-toys, e-cigarettes, e-bikes, power tools, smoke detectors, USB sticks, wearable health devices, and smart home gadgets.
  • Global Unnoticed E-Waste: Approximately one-sixth of global electronic waste, amounting to nearly 9 billion kilograms annually, is overlooked by consumers.
  • Contribution of E-Toys: Around 35% of invisible e-waste (roughly 3.2 billion kilograms) comes from e-toys, including race car sets, electric trains, drones, and biking computers.
  • Impact of Vaping Devices: An estimated 844 million vaping devices are discarded annually, significantly contributing to the invisible e-waste category.
  • Economic Significance: The material value of invisible e-waste is estimated at about USD 9.5 billion each year, primarily due to valuable components like iron, copper, and gold.
  • Global E-Waste Management: Globally, only a small fraction of e-waste is properly collected, treated, and recycled. Collection rates vary widely across regions, with the majority of e-waste ending up in landfills or being improperly treated.
  • Environmental Risks: Improper disposal of invisible e-waste poses substantial environmental risks, as hazardous components like lead, mercury, and cadmium can contaminate soil and water.

Recommendations from the Study:

  • Unlocking Recycling Potential: Invisible e-waste represents an untapped resource with significant economic recovery potential. There is an urgent need to raise awareness about the recycling of valuable materials in this category.
  • Economic Value: The total value of raw materials in global e-waste amounted to an estimated USD 57 billion in 2019. A substantial portion, around USD 9.5 billion in material value annually, falls under the invisible e-waste category.
  • Awareness and Recycling: Raising awareness is crucial to unlock the recycling potential of invisible e-waste and meet the growing demand for materials in various strategic sectors such as renewable energy, electric mobility, industry, communications, aerospace, and defense.

Provisions regarding E-waste in India

The provisions regarding E-waste management in India are outlined in various rules and regulations. Here are the key provisions:

E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016:
  • Enacted in 2017, this rule covers over 21 products listed in Schedule-I.
  • It includes Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) and other mercury-containing lamps.
  • The rules emphasize Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for manufacturers and producers to take responsibility for the entire life cycle of their products.
E-waste (Management and Handling) Regulations of 2010:
  • These regulations were issued under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986.
  • The main feature was the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which makes manufacturers responsible for the collection and environmentally sound disposal of their end-of-life products.
E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2022:
  • These updated rules were introduced with the aim of digitizing the e-waste management process and enhancing visibility.
  • They restrict the use of hazardous substances, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, in manufacturing electrical and electronic equipment to reduce their adverse impact on human health and the environment.
  • Introduces a Deposit Refund Scheme, where producers charge an additional amount as a deposit during the sale of electrical and electronic equipment and refund it, along with interest, when the end-of-life equipment is returned.

About the WEEE Forum:

  • The WEEE Forum is the most extensive global center of expertise for managing “waste electrical and electronic equipment” (WEEE).
  • Founded in April 2002, it is a not-for-profit organization composed of 46 WEEE producer responsibility organizations worldwide.
Mission and Benefits:
  • The WEEE Forum’s mission is to enhance operational knowledge in WEEE management.
  • It fosters collaboration and sharing of best practices among its members.
  • By offering access to a knowledge base toolbox, the WEEE Forum supports its members in improving their operations.
  • The organization helps its members become advocates for the circular economy and sustainable electronic waste management.

-Source: Down To Earth

December 2023