E-waste - Management Practices in India

Archana Thakur, Tapas Kumar Ray, Manish Kumar Goel


With the usage of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) on the rise, the amount
of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) produced each day is equally growing
enormously around the globe. Recycling of valuable elements contained in e-waste
such as copper and gold has become a source of income mostly in the informal
sector of developing or emerging industrialized countries. However, primitive
recycling techniques such as burning cables for retaining the inherent copper expose
both adult and child workers as well as their families to a range of hazardous
substances.1 By definition, e-waste or “waste electrical and electronic products” is a
term used to cover all items of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and its
parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of reuse.2
Such wastes encompass wide range of electrical and electronic devices such as
computers, handheld cellular phones, personal stereos, including large household
appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, etc.3 E-waste consists hazardous
and non-hazardous waste. It consists of ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics,
glass, wood and plywood, printed circuit boards, concrete, ceramics, rubber and
other items. Iron and steel constitute about 50% of the-waste, followed by plastics
(21%), non-ferrous metals (13%) and other constituents. Non-ferrous metals consist
of metals like copper, aluminum and precious metals like silver, gold, platinum,
palladium and so on. The presence of elements like lead, mercury, arsenic,
cadmium, selenium, hexavalent chromium, and flame retardants beyond threshold
quantities make e-waste toxic (Table 1).4 Rapid product innovation, miniaturization
and replacement, especially for information and communication technology (ICT)
products and consumer equipment, are fueling the increase of e-waste and resulting
in immediate and long-term concern5 because of unregulated accumulation,
improper collection and treatment approaches that can lead to major
environmental problems endangering human health.

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