E-waste, a greater threat than pandemic
We are still not free from the corona pandemic. From now on, there is increasing concern about another epidemic in the future about which environmentalists have already warned us.
Experts have warned that if e-waste and other medical waste reaches the forests from homes, the consequences will be dire and will hold for centuries. Last month, the National Commission for Rights and Protection of Children, on the basis of a study, warned that if the dangerous side of the waste is not taken care of in time, then in the coming times millions of children will be in the grip of dangerous diseases.
As the demand for electronic products is increasing around the world, electronic waste is also increasing along with it. E-Waste Report 2020-21 shows that in the year 2019, 53.6 million metric tonnes of waste was generated, which has increased by 21 percent in the last five years.
It is estimated that by 2030, the production of this electronic waste will reach 74 million metric tons. These also include objects whose life has come to an end. Such as TV, refrigerator, cooler AC, monitor, computer calculator, mobile, parts of electronic machines etc. Ever since the corona virus infection has spread in the world, since then the use of equipment like masks, face shields, PPE kits has also increased significantly.
PPE kits are of use and throw type, increasing concern. As a result, now a large stock of these biomedical waste are being created all over the world.
Assocham-NC study states that exposure to chemicals emitted during recycling of unsafe e-waste can lead to nervous system, blood system, kidney and brain disorders, respiratory disorders, skin disorders, sore throat, lung cancer Damage to heart etc.
Plastics and radiation-generating components used in mobile phones do not decompose by naturally dissolving in the ground for hundreds of years. Let us tell you that only one mobile phone battery can easily contaminate six lakh liters of water. These dangerous chemicals present in the water-land i.e. our environment cause many serious diseases like cancer. Significantly, India is the largest mobile consumer country in the world. Here more than 1.5 million tonnes of garbage is produced in a year.
In the year 2011, some rules were made for e-waste management, in which the state pollution control boards were authorized to manage the end of life of their products which are not environmentally friendly.
After that the e-waste Management Rules 2016 were made. However, this enabled the management of the waste which ensured the end return of the waste. Along with this, a system was also created in the name of ‘Product Responsibility Organization’.
Apart from this, the Central Pollution Control Board will inspect what such equipment is available in the market, which are not possible to dispose of and are dangerous to humans and the environment.
All those items will be marked and returned from the market. India’s name is also included in the top five countries that generate the most electronic waste in the world, apart from China, America, Japan and Germany in this list. It is a matter of concern that only 5 percent of India’s total e-waste is recycled due to poor infrastructure and legislation, which is directly affecting the irreversible damage to the environment and the health of the people working in the industry.
India should develop recycling and legal processes on the lines of the system prevalent in European countries for a permanent solution to the problem of e-waste. Where organizations engaged in the manufacture of electronic products are held accountable for recycling these products after they become unusable, the companies either recycle these products themselves or delegate this task to a third party.
In many countries, fees related to waste e-waste are paid not for collecting or transporting it, but for the disposal of the waste. For example, in Sweden and the United States, heavy entry fees are charged for dumping waste into the landfill. A ‘filler area tax’ is also levied in Sweden.
The hefty entry fee prevents municipal corporations from dumping garbage in the landfill area. Therefore, now India also needs to take appropriate decision for e-waste management as soon as possible, because we will be free from corona virus today or tomorrow but till then we will be able to keep medical waste and e-waste around us and this would be piling up with every passing minute.
Therefore, it is time to prepare a roadmap for medical waste and e-waste and focus on its operation. Otherwise, another epidemic in the form of e-waste is readying itself to knock on our doors in near future.
(The author is a Retired Principal and an Educationist based at Malout in Punjab)