A new regime envisaging reduction and proper disposal of hazardous e-waste is going to come into force. India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) introduced E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2010 earlier this year, which will come into effect starting May 2012. The rules will cover every producer, consumer and bulk consumer involved in the manufacture, sale, purchase and processing of electrical and electronic equipment. Details of regulation are available at website of MOEF
What is e-Waste?
E-waste can be defined as discarded electronics / electrical goods that have reached their end of life. These are destined for reuse, resale, salvage, recycling, or disposal. This may include:
– Computers and Laptops
– Office IT & Electronic Equipment: Fax machine, servers, photo copier, scanner, CDs, printers
– Mobile phones
– Household electronics: TV, air conditioner, MP3 players, music system etc.
Why current situation is inappropriate and needs some serious action?
E-waste is by-product of the technological revolution which has happened over past few decades. Increasing consumerism, rapid technological advancement, low cost of ownership and planned obsolescence by large corporations has led to e-waste crisis around the globe.
Electronic waste contains toxic constituents (like Lead, Mercury, Cadmium etc.) which render it hazardous when dismantled, processed or disposed inappropriately.
According to Greenpeace estimates, India will produce 4,300 tons of e-waste every day in 2012. Currently, less than 5% of this waste is treated and rest is handled by unorganized sector – disposing it in a manner which causes serious threat to environment and health.
Unorganized workers handing e-waste are not versed with seriousness of the problem and follow techniques like open air burning or dumping into landfills / water bodies. Being a source of valuable materials (precious metals – gold, silver, platinum, etc. and base metals – copper, iron, aluminum, etc.) acid stripping is done to recover precious metals. All these disposal techniques generate some of the most harmful pollutants known, involving significant risk to communities and workers.
What can implementation of new regulation mean for entrepreneurial community?
Current, imbalance in e-waste management combined with enforced regulation is expected to offer some interesting opportunities for entrepreneurs and innovators at various steps in the value chain: e-waste collection, transportation, segregation, recycling, and disposing.
Industry will require technologies which are more efficient and cost effective. There will be a much larger play for innovative business models which are economically viable, can attain scale and create value for various stake holders in the e-waste eco system.