EWaste Management in India: A Policy Perspective
The issue of electronic waste (ewaste) is fast becoming a significant concern in India. With the increasing demand for electronic products, there arises the inevitable problem of what to do with the older, obsolete items. The Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) and NITI Aayog have recently released a report highlighting the need for a circular economy in the Indian electronics sector.
The ICEA report suggests that there could be an additional $7 billion market opportunity in harnessing ewaste, emphasizing its economic potential.
Status of EWaste Management in India
India’s ewaste management is primarily an informal affair, with approximately 90% of ewaste collection and 70% of recycling being managed by the informal sector.
Moradabad serves as an industrial hub where tonnes of printed circuit boards arrive to have gold and silver extracted and sold.
Government's Stance on EWaste Management
The Union Government has announced EWaste (Management) Rules, 2022, aiming to digitize the ewaste process and make its movement more transparent. The government supports the development of a "reverse supply chain" for collecting, cleaning, and recycling ewaste.
The IT Ministry launched a scheme to cover 25% of the capital expenditure on highyield recycling facilities.
Importance of Circular Economy
The concept of a circular economy is vital for sustainability. A circular economy aims to reuse and recycle materials, thereby reducing the need for 'virgin' materials.
China ensured that 5% of their secondary raw material went into the manufacturing of new products by 2019 and is targeting 35% by 2030.
Challenges in EWaste Management
The challenges include lack of formalization, difficulty in tracking the large informal sector, and data privacy concerns, among others.
Around 200 million devices are estimated to be lying in consumers' homes, unrecycled, partly due to fears about personal data misuse.
1. Promotion of PublicPrivate Partnerships: To offset the high costs of developing a reverse supply chain.
2. Right to Repair: Supporting a right to repair could make products last longer, reducing ewaste.
3. Material Sourcing: Ensuring a steady supply of material for recycling plants is essential for their stability.
4. Consumer Awareness: Campaigns to educate the public about the importance of ewaste recycling and how to safely dispose of electronic goods.
Launching an auditable database of materials collected through the reverse supply chain could be a good starting point for formalizing the sector.
While the informal sector has managed ewaste relatively well so far, there is an urgent need for formalization and policy support. As demand for electronics continues to rise, a circular economy becomes not just beneficial but essential for sustainable growth.