The rising level of e waste generated in India is a matter of great concern in India. A recent report by UN on e waste has highlighted that India is the world’s 5th largest producer of e waste, discarding 1.7 million tonnes of e waste annually. The report released by United Nations University also that the problem of e-waste in Asian and African countries gets exacerbated by the transfer of e-waste from developed countries defying Basel Convention exacerbates the problem.The impact of E Waste on Environment is definitely something to take care of.
Impact of E waste on Environment is problematic because of the following reasons:
1) Impact of E Waste on environment
a. The leachates from e-waste landfills percolate to groundwater and cause intermixing of several harmful elements like Selenium, Mercury, Lead, Cadmium. This happens because of the excellent solvency property of water
b. The problem of leaching not only affects groundwater but also causes contamination of soil with same hazardous chemicals/elements
c. Incineration of e-waste results in releasing toxic gases into the atmosphere thereby causing air pollution d. E-waste also affects the biodiversity of a region through the process of Bioaccumulation, Biomagnification and Bioconcentration.
Through these processes, e-waste enters and continues to stay in the food chain having adverse impact on the health of animals and humans
2) Impact of E Waste on Humans
a. E-waste is harmful for human health. It leads to variety of diseases such as Seleniosis, Lead Palsy, Minamata disease, Itai Itai, Fluorosis, Ataxia etc
b. Toxins such as mercury affect brain as it is a neurotoxin. Toxins like Lead lead to problems in endocrine system, nervous system, gastrointestinal problems etc. Toxicity of Mercury is highest
c. Children are particularly impacted by e-waste as they work in the poorly managed landfill sites, extracting certain useful components from the waste sites leading to adverse health effects. As they are still growing, children’s intake of air, water and food in proportion to their weight is significantly increased compared to adults, – and with that, the risk of hazardous chemical absorption. Furthermore, their bodies’ functional systems such as the central nervous, immune, reproductive and digestive system are still developing and exposure to toxic substances, by hampering further development, may cause irreversible damage.
d. Guiyu is known as the largest e-waste recycling site in the world, and the city’s residents exhibit substantial digestive, neurological, respiratory, and bone problems. For example, 80 percent of Guiyu’s children experience respiratory ailments, and are especially at risk of lead poisoning
e. Combustion from burning e-waste creates fine particulate matter, which is linked to pulmonary and cardiovascular disease.
f. These chemicals are not biodegradable—they persist in the environment for long periods of time, increasing exposure risk.
Causes of increasing issues arising out of impact of e waste on environment:
● Indiscriminate consumption of electronic products such as mobile phones. UN report has warned that the volume of global e-waste is likely to rise by 21 per cent in next three years. With more than 100 crore mobile phones in circulation, nearly 25 per cent end up in e-waste annually.
● Refurbished goods industry, suitable for countries like India, has not yet picked up
● E-waste management is still in its nascent stage. Landfill, incineration are still the way in which e-waste is dealt with
● The problem gets exacerbated as developed countries in violation of Basel rules transport their e-waste to countries like India
Solutions to deal with the impact of e waste on environment issue:
1) There are certain organizations in India like e-parisar in Bangalore which deal with e-waste in a scientific manner
2) The government recently notified e-waste management rules whose provisions are:
a. Rules will bring the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets
b. Producers have been made responsible for collection of E-waste and for its exchange
c. The process of dismantling and recycling has been simplified through one system of authorization through the Central Pollution Control Board which will give the single authorization throughout the country
d. transportation of E-waste has been made more stringent
e. Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and other mercury containing lamp now included in the new rules, making safe disposal of consumer products containing these elements mandatory
f. States, under the new guidelines, are also bound to undertake skill development activities for the workers, involved in e-waste management process
g. The producers under EPR can also charge extra amount from their customers at the time of sale of electronic products, as a deposit, which has to be refunded when the customer comes for disposing the product
3) Other sustainable practices like recycling, using refurbished goods etc will go a long way in dealing with e-waste
4) European Union has implemented cyclical economy which effectively recycles waste products and prevents the hazardous impact