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eWaste: Risks, Measures & Challenge



  Sep 11, 2023

electronic-waste-ewaste-overview


Electronic waste, often referred to as eWaste, encompasses discarded electronic devices and equipment, including mobile phones, laptops, televisions, and more. These devices contain various valuable materials, components, and precious metals, but when not disposed of properly, they pose environmental and health risks.

Threats from eWaste:

Environmental Impact: Inappropriate disposal and recycling methods can lead to the release of hazardous chemicals and pollutants, contaminating soil and water sources. This pollution can harm ecosystems and wildlife.

Health Hazards: Handling eWaste without proper protection can expose individuals to toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and cadmium, which can result in health issues, including respiratory problems and neurological disorders.

Resource Depletion: Electronics production requires scarce resources and minerals. Discarding electronic devices without recycling means the loss of valuable materials that could be reused in manufacturing.
 

Measures Taken to Address eWaste:

Informal Sector Regulation: Despite the informal sector's dominance in eWaste management in India, steps are being taken to regulate and formalize this industry, ensuring better environmental practices.

E-Waste Rules: The Indian government introduced the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2022, to digitize and track the movement of eWaste, aiming to establish proper disposal and recycling processes. These rules also emphasize Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

Circular Economy Promotion: Emphasizing a circular economy approach, efforts are made to reintroduce discarded electronic components and precious metals into new hardware, reducing waste and promoting sustainability.

Public-Private Partnerships: Collaborations between public and private sectors are being encouraged to establish efficient reverse supply chains, collecting devices, and facilitating proper recycling while ensuring data security.

High-Yield Recycling Centers: Recommendations include incentivizing high-yield recycling centers to maximize the extraction of valuable materials from electronic devices, including rare earth metals.
 

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR):

Under EPR rules, manufacturers and producers are legally responsible for managing the end-of-life disposal and recycling of their electronic products. This approach shifts the burden of responsible eWaste management from consumers to producers, encouraging them to design products with easier recycling and safer disposal in mind.

Extended Product Lifespan: Encouraging repairs and extending the lifespan of products through policies such as the right to repair can help reduce the environmental burden of electronic waste.

Despite these initiatives, challenges remain, including the presence of a large informal sector, concerns about data privacy during recycling, and the need for a consistent supply of materials for large-scale recycling plants. However, addressing eWaste is essential for environmental sustainability and resource conservation.


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