India is emerging as one of the world’s major electronic waste generators and likely to generate 52 lakh metric tonnes (MT) per annum by 2020 from the current level 18 lakh metric tonnes growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 30%, an ASSOCHAM-cKinetics recent study coinciding with the “Environment Day” (June 5) noted.
The global volume of e-waste generated is expected to reach 130 million tons in 2018 from 93.5 million tons in 2016 at a compound annual growth rate of 17.6 percent from 2016 to 2018, according to a study on ‘Electronic Waste Management in India,’ conducted by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM )–cKinetics joint study on “World Environment Day”.
As Indians become richer and spend more electronic items and appliances, Computer equipment accounts for almost 70% of e-waste material followed by telecommunication equipment (12%), electrical equipment (8%) and medical equipment (7%). Other equipment, including household e-crap account for the remaining 4%, it said.
The sad part is that a mere 1.5% of India’s total e-waste gets recycled due to poor infrastructure, legislation and framework which lead to a waste of diminishing natural resources, irreparable damage of environment and health of the people working in industry. Over 95% of e-waste generated is managed by the unorganised sector and scrap dealers in this market, dismantle the disposed products instead of recycling it.
In India, about 4-5 lakhs child labours between the age group of 10-15 are observed to be engaged in various e-waste (electronic waste) activities, without adequate protection and safeguards in various yards and recycling workshops, said Mr. D S Rawat, Secretary General ASSOCHAM while releasing the paper. The chamber has also strongly advocated the need to bring out effective legislation to prevent entry of child labour into its collection, segregation and distribution, reveals the study.
“E-waste typically includes discarded computer monitors, motherboards, Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT), Printed Circuit Board (PCB), mobile phones and chargers, compact discs, headphones, white goods such as Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD)/ Plasma televisions, air conditioners, refrigerators and so on.
As per the study, E-waste workers in India suffer from breathing problems, such as asthma and bronchitis. Many workers are children, who are unaware of the hazards and by the time they reach 35 to 40 years of age, they’re incapable of working, points out the study.
About 2/3 of e-waste workers in India suffering from respiratory ailments like breathing difficulties, irritation, coughing, choking, tremors problems who all are engaged in various e-waste (electronic waste) activities due to improper safeguards and dismantling workshops.
The recovery of metals like gold, platinum, copper and lead uses caustic soda and concentrated acids. The workers dip their hands in poisonous chemicals for long hours. They are also exposed to fumes of highly concentrated acid. Safety gear such as gloves, face masks and ventilation fans are virtually unheard of, noted study.
According to the study, computers, televisions and mobile phones are most dangerous because they have high levels of lead, mercury and cadmium — and they have short life-spans so are discarded more, adds the study.
The main sources of electronic waste in India are the government, public and private (industrial) sectors, which account for almost 75% of total waste generation. The contribution of individual households is relatively small at about 16 per cent; the rest being contributed by manufacturers. Though individual households are not large contributors to waste generated by computers, they consume large quantities of consumer durables and are, therefore, potential creators of waste, reveals the ASSOCHAM study.
E-waste accounts for approximately 40 percent of the lead and 70 percent of heavy metals found in landfills. These pollutants lead to ground water and air pollution and soil acidification. High and prolonged exposure to these chemicals/ pollutants emitted during unsafe e-waste recycling leads to damage of nervous systems, blood systems, kidneys and brain development, respiratory disorders, skin disorders, bronchitis, lung cancer, heart, liver, and spleen damage.
Despite the Indian government stringent law to regulate e-waste trade, destitute children still face hazards picking apart old computers, TV etc. The chamber has also strongly advocated the need to bring out effective legislation to prevent entry of child labour into its collection, segregation and distribution.