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CHALLENGES IN MANAGING E-WASTE IN INDIA

S. SIVA RAMA KRISHNAN

Asst. Professor, High-End Computing Division, School of Information Technology and Engineering, VIT University Vellore. E-mail: siva.s@vit.ac,in Ph no: +91-9944454400

ABSTRACT The developing countries are facing a huge challenge in the management of electronic waste (e-waste) which are either internally generated or imported illegally as ‘used’ goods. E-waste contains hazardous constituents that negatively impact the environment and human health. In India, because of lack of adequate infrastructure to manage wastes safely, these wastes are buried, burnt in the open air or dumped into the surface water bodies. We should have in place legislation mandating electronic manufacturers and importers to take-back used electronic products at their end-of-life (EoL) based on the principle of extended producer responsibility (EPR). This paper gives an insight into various forms and the quantum of e-waste in the Indian scenario, the source and the circulation routes, the nature and the amount of toxic and valuable constituents of e-waste, potential pollution threat to environment, recycling methods, efficient management techniques for e-waste, awareness of people and legal requirements. Keywords— Extended producer responsibility (EPR); e-waste; product take-back

INTRODUCTION ectronic waste, (WEEE) is loose Esurplus, obsolete,e-scrap, ororWaste Electrical and Electronic Equipment which have abecomecategory of broken, discarded electrical or electronic devices out-of-use
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due to advancement in technology nearing the end of their useful life. This includes used electronic components and gadgets which are destined for reuse, resale, salvage, recycling or disposal. It is also disturbing to note that computer wastes containing hazardous heavy metals in large quantity are accumulating very fast.

Extended Producer’s Responsibilities (EPR): The most important component of any legislative exercise for establishing a WEEE management system should be a focus on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). The original motivation for EPR was: first, to relieve municipalities of some of the financial burden of waste management, especially when it comes to

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bismuth. lead. to provide incentives to producers to reduce resources. copper. which are otherwise toxic if they exist in nature in high concentration. silver. arsenic. iron and aluminum. cadmium. LIST OF SUBSTANCES CONTAINED IN ELECTRONIC WASTE An average composition of e-waste is given in the TABLE I while an average material constituent of consumer electronics which forms a significant component of solid waste stream is presented in TABLE II.1 % POLLUTANTS CABLES PRINTED CIRCUIT BOARDS On an average when one tone of e-waste is shredded and undergoes other separation steps during mechanical recycling. and undertake product design changes to reduce waste (OECD. Substances found in large quantities include epoxy resins. and. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).7 % 2. beryllium.complex wastes such as e-waste.0 % 3. copper. fiber glass. use more secondary materials. platinum. tantalum. americium. tin. 2001). vanadium and yttrium. nickel. silicon.2 % 12. antimony. TABLE I: AVERAGE COMPOSITION OF ELECTRONIC WASTE METALS PLASTICS SCREENS METAL-PLASTIC MIXTURE 60. rhodium. The devices containing theses elements are: -2- .0 % 2. carbon. and thermosetting plastics. and 5) Individual Households. gold. public and private sector discards (over 70%) 3) PC retailers and manufactures 4) Secondary market of old PCs. polyvinyl chloride (PVC).0 % 5. boron.2 % 15. silicon. Elements found in trace amounts include mercury. approximately 40 kg of dust-like material is generated containing precious metals. gallium. second. barium. tin. RECOVERABLE AND RECYCLABLE METALS CONTAINED IN E-WASTE The elements present in bulk include lead. carbon and iron. cobalt. E-WASTE MAIN SOURCE: 1) Imports 2) Government. titanium.

lungs.Lead: Solder. printed circuit boards. Electronic Waste Hazards “The cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in computer and television monitors contain lead . Mercury .like lead . transistors. ZINC AND CADMIUM 26% 14% 20% 23% 17% PROBLEMS AT LARGE 1) E-waste is a crisis of not quantity alone but also a crisis born from toxic ingredients. people are unaware of these and are risking their life and environment as well. low initial cost. In our country. 2) Rapid technology change. printed circuit board tracks. Nickel and cadmium: rechargeable batteries Lithium: lithium-ion batteries Carbon: resistors The distribution of various metals present in personal computers is presented in the below table: TABLE II: MATERIAL COMPOSITION OF PERSONAL COMPUTER SILICA/GLASS ALUMINUM FERROUS METAL PLASTICS LEAD. nervous system. kidneys and the reproductive system. known to be a carcinogen. address the movement of radioactive waste. Aluminum: Heatsinks Iron: Steel chassis. however. HAZARDS TO HUMAN HEALTH Up to 38 separate chemical elements are incorporated into electronic waste items. Trade in electronic waste is controlled by the Basel Convention. ICs. proper collection system missing. CRT monitors (Lead in glass). is used in flat-panel display screens.which is poisonous to the nervous system .as do circuit boards. cases and fixings Silicon: glass. 3) Legal framework. posing a threat to the occupational health as well as the environment. these products have the potential to contribute significant levels of toxic -3- . Tin: Solder Copper: copper wire. It does not. COPPER.a neurotoxin. Inhaling or handing such substances and being in contact with them on a regular basis can damage the brain. lead-acid battery. This is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations.” “When disposed in landfills. Many of the plastics used contain flame retardants such as Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB) and Polybrominated Diphenylebethers (PBDEs). high obsolescence rate have resulted in a fast growing problem in our country. Some batteries and circuit boards contain cadmium.

Hazardous Elements • • Americium: smoke alarms (radioactive source). thermostats). arsenic. Banned during the 1980s. These include lead. There are no liquid mercury switches in ordinary computers. heat transfer fins in vacuum tubes. X-ray-transparent ceramic windows. Table below shows the details of hazards of each element [9]. chromium. Burning PVC in connection with humidity in the air creates Hydrogen Chloride (HCl). and gas lasers. Cadmium: light-sensitive resistors. and flexible sealants. zinc. mercury. Polyvinyl chloride Third most widely produced plastic. A typical 15-inch cathode ray tube may contain 1. CRT monitor glass. magnetrons. PBBs: Predecessor of PCBs. and the elimination of mercury batteries in many new-model computers is taking place. but other CRTs have been estimated as having up to 8 pounds of lead. Some of these additional chemicals called additives can leach out of vinyl products.” “PVC is a chlorinated plastic used in some electronics products and for insulation on wires and cables. transformers.5 pounds of lead. and selenium. nickel-cadmium batteries. cadmium. some formulations of PVC. paints. Banned from 1973-1977 on. lead-acid batteries. tilt switches (pinball games.materials to the leachate produced in landfills. an acid. inks. Chlorinated dioxins and furans are released when PVC is produced or disposed of by incineration. corrosion-resistant alloys for marine and aviation environments. Also used as flame retardant. Sulphur: lead-acid batteries. polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Beryllium oxide: filler in some thermal interface materials such as thermal grease used on heat sinks for CPUs and power transistors. contains additional chemicals to change the chemical consistency of the product. • • • • • • • -4- . Lead: solder. Chlorinated dioxins and furans are released when PVC is produced or disposed of by incineration “PVC is a chlorinated plastic used in some electronics products and for insulation on wires and cables. Mercury: fluorescent tubes (numerous applications). PCBs: prior to ban. mechanical doorbells. wiring insulation. including capacitors. almost all 1930s–1970s equipment. Plasticizers that must be added to make PVC flexible have been additives of particular concern.

6) Memory devices. should achieve a PC penetration of 300 per 1000 from the existing 250 per 1000 (in 2007-08). 75 million computers will be there by 2010. The cellular subscriber base was up by 96. 3) The Basel Action Network (BAN) which works for prevention of globalization of toxic chemicals as stated in a report that 50 to 80 per cent of e-waste collected by the US is exported to India. India has 35 million computers (on 2008).3 million units during 2007-2008. Its installed base is estimated to cross 300 million mark by 2010. growing by 16 percent. are the newer additions.000 tons per year. 2) At present.86 percent during 2007-2008. MP4 players. 5) Life of a computer reduced from 7 to 3 years. 4) More than 2 million old PCs ready for disposal.76. 1) India by 2010. The consumers find it convenient to buy a new electronic device rather than upgrade the old one due to -5- . iPods etc. The statistics collected by ‘Manufacturer’s Association for Information Technology (MAIT)’ on the growth of electronics and IT industry in INDIA are: The PC sales were over 7.SCENARIO IN OUR COUNTRY IT and telecom are the two fastest growing industries in the country. 7) Preliminary estimates suggest that the total WEEE generation is approximately 1.

they find their way to scrap dealers. Copper and Silicon from the printed circuit broads. In an alternative bulk system. gold. to apply a bacterial leaching process (‘bioleaching’) for the mobilization of the metals from the e-waste. or sold to foundries as a fluxing agent in processing raw lead ore. Leaded glass from CRTs is reused in car batteries.. magnetic separation. and treated to mitigate environmental threat. eddy currents. power supplies. Such recycling machinery is enclosed and employs a dust collection system. reverse osmosis. ammunition. a survey made by leading Indian computer magazine Data quest. These methods allow for safe reclamation of all valuable computer construction materials.000 tones of computer waste monthly and in the absence of proper disposal. and screens are employed to separate glass. Zn. The Indian PC industry has been growing at a 45% compounded annual growth rate. filtration and centrifugation. found that people in Delhi are about twice as likely to suffer from lung ailments due to the huge amount of e-waste generated [3]. RECOVERY PROCESSES The procedure of metal extraction includes manual sorting. a hopper conveys material for shredding into a sophisticated mechanical separator. condensation. including chips.000 tons of e-waste is handled every year. silver. standards for disposal. proper mechanism for handling these toxic hitech products. the electronic waste is generated in huge amounts and there is no proper management method to handle this e-waste and also people are unaware of the health hazards and pollution these ewaste generate. At electronic scrap concentration of 5-10g/l in the medium.e. About 25. electrolytic recovery. and ferrous and nonferrous metals. The advantages of this process are the human's ability to recognize and save working and repairable parts. transistors. electrolysis. The Indian states in the order of their contribution to WEEE are as follows. RAM. often by hand. Kolkata. Thus in India.the changing configuration. The bio-hydro-metallurgical techniques provide us with a better solution i. with screening and granulating machines to separate constituent metal and plastic fractions. Ni and Al. plastic. etc. Due to the lack of governmental legislation on e-waste. which are sold to smelters or plastics recyclers. Electronic waste processing usually first involves dismantling the equipment into various parts (metal frames. The rate of generation and the current methods of disposal pose an adverse effect to the dense population and the environment [7].000 tonnes of electronic waste produced here apart from a good amount of same being imported clandestinely. According to the study conducted by the NGO Toxic Link [3]. mostly end up in landfills or partly recycled in an unhygienic condition or thrown into waste streams. Saccharomyces cerevisiae. and tin are valuable metals sold to smelters for recycling. where 10. Hazardous smoke and gases are captured. At present Bangalore alone generates more than 10. plastics). the Mumbai city faces grave health and environmental risk posed by a whopping 19. Workers in e-waste disposal sector are poorly protected as they dismantle the e-waste often by hand. Most of the emissions are caught by scrubbers and screens. Bacteria and fungi (Bacillus sp. Aspergillus niger and Penicillium simplicissimum were able to mobilize Cu -6- . palladium. and lead wheel weights. circuit boards.000 workers are employed at scrap-yards in Delhi alone. Copper. Yarrowia lipolytica) have already been used to mobilize lead. Mumbai > Delhi > Bangalore > Chennai > Kolkata > Ahmadabad > Hyderabad > Pune > Surat > Nagpur. which can then be further separated at a smelter. Study by the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute. Cities in the order of their generation of WEEE are as follows.000 to 20. Magnets. contained. technology and the attractive offers from the manufactures. Thiobacillus thiooxidans and Thiobacillus ferrooxidans were able to leach more than 90% of the available Cu. [2] Maharashtra > Andhra Pradesh > Tamil Nadu > Uttar Pradesh > West Bengal > Delhi > Karnataka > Gujarat > Madhya Pradesh > Punjab.

open to the public in most cases. D. Consumer recycling Consumer recycling options include donating equipment directly to organizations in need. CONCLUSION The present study reveals that the e-waste are going to become a great challenge for environmentalists and technologists as the rate of growth is much higher than the rate it is disposed. including mobile phones. Ni. B. Such companies also offer free recycling for old electronics without market value. implementing a protective protocol for the workers working in e-waste disposal and educating public about this emerging issue posing a threat to the environment as well as public health.and Sn by 65% and Al. there are some downsides to such programs. local recycling sites that do not process waste products on site. or getting components to a convenient recycler. operation plan. A. Leached and recovered metals might be reused as raw materials by the metal manufacturing industries. Recycling centers and takeback programs are available in many parts of the country. This method has a potential to reduce e-waste and raw material costs. laptop and desktop computers. Corporations nationwide have begun to offer low-cost to no-cost recycling. and also provide income from ewaste. Donation Consumer recycling includes a variety of donation options. recycle and reuse. digital cameras. and consumers that throw electronics in the trash. Though helpful to both the environment and its citizens. The Environmental Protection Agency maintains a list of electronic recycling and donation options for consumers. but the type and amount of equipment to be recycled tends to be limited. However. The Donate Hardware List and the National Technology Recycling Project provide resources for recycling. sending devices directly back to their original manufacturers. Many corporations offer services for a variety of electronic items. Takeback Individuals looking for environmentally-friendly ways in which to dispose of electronics can find corporate electronic takeback and recycling programs across the country. such as charities which may offer tax benefits. Pd. while their recycling centers are few in number.Zn by more than 95% at a scrap concentration of 100 g/l in the medium. C. There is an urgent need for improvement in e-waste management covering technological improvement. and have opened centers nationally and in some cases internationally. -7- . RECYCLING PROGRAMS The E-Management strategies that can be adopted from 4 R’s policy – reduce. Exchange Many new for-profit electronic recycling companies purchase and recycle all brands of working and broken electronics. whether from individuals or corporations. Such programs frequently offer services to take back and recycle electronics. recover. and home and auto electronics. still contribute to electronic waste. reused or recycled.

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