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Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, Prelims

Why in news?

The Central Government said that the electronic waste (e-waste) in 2018-19 was over double of the e-waste recycled in 2017-18.


  • The approximate estimated generation of e-waste in FY 2017-2018 for electrical and electronic equipment was 7,08,445 tonnes of which 69,414 tonnes were recycled, whereas in FY 2018-2019, the e-waste generation estimate was 7,71,215 tonnes of which 1,64,663 tonnes were recycled.
  • This translates to a 10% recycling rate in 2017-18 rising to a little over 20% in 2018-19.

What is e-waste?

  • E-waste is a popular, informal name for electronic products nearing the end of their “useful life.” Computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, and fax machines are common electronic products. Many of these products can be reused, refurbished, or recycled.
  • There is no clear definition for e-waste; for instance whether or not items like microwave ovens and other similar “appliances” should be grouped into the category has not been established.

Is e-waste dangerous?

  • Electronic scrap components, such as CPUs, contain potentially harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, or brominated flame retardants.
  • Recycling and disposal of e-waste may involve significant risk to health of workers and their communities.

UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 talks of the necessity to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. Referring to discarded electronic devices, this means achieving ecologically acceptable management throughout their life cycle, as well as reducing the release of poisons into the atmosphere, water and soil to minimise their negative impact on health and the environment.

e-Waste recycling in India

  • While e-waste recycling is a source of income for many people in India, it also poses numerous health and environmental risks.
  • More than 95% of India’s e-waste is illegally recycled by informal waste pickers called kabadiwalas or raddiwalas.
  • These workers operate independently, outside of any formal organization which makes enforcing e-waste regulations difficult-to-impossible.
  • Recyclers often rely on rudimentary recycling techniques that can release toxic pollutants into the surrounding area.
  • The release of toxic pollutants associated with crude e-waste recycling can have far reaching, irreversible consequences.
  • A report by the Union Environment Ministry in 2018 found that many of India’s e-waste recyclers weren’t recycling waste at all. While some were storing it in hazardous conditions, many didn’t even have the capacity to handle such waste.

Legislation related to e-waste recycling in India

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC) is primarily responsible for regulations regarding electronic waste. Additionally, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) produce implementation procedures to ensure proper management of rules set forth by the MoEFCC.

E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011

  • Prior to the enactment of the E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011; e-waste was covered under the Hazardous Waste Management (HWM) Rules. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986.
  • It made manufacturers, dealers, refurbishers and Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO) liable for safe disposal of electronic goods.

E-Waste Management Rules, 2016

  • The E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 have recently been amended by the Centre, to facilitate and effectively implement the environmentally sound management of e-waste in India.
  • These amendments have been made with the objective of channelizing the e-waste generated in the country towards authorized dismantlers and recyclers in order to further formalize the e-waste recycling sector.
  • By way of revised targets and monitoring under the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), effective and improved management of e-waste would be ensured.

February 2024