Mains Daily Question
Feb. 19, 2024

Q2.  With an increasing number of electronic gadgets being used day to day, e-waste has emerged as a menace. Discuss the issues in dealing with e-waste and how is India tackling the challenge?(10M, 150W)

Model Answer

Approach:  Break down the question into sub-parts and then answer each part individually.

Introduction: Introduce with the definition of e- waste and why it is a menace


Sub-Heading 1: Issues in dealing with e-waste

Sub-Heading 2: India’s approach to e-waste management

Sub-Heading 3: Lacunae in the Indian approach

Conclusion: The way ahead for e-waste management in India


Answer: E-waste is  defined as electronic products that are unwanted, not working, and nearing or at the end of their “useful life.”  According to the United Nations’ Global E-Waste Monitor 2020, India now ranks as the world’s third-largest e-waste generator, following only China and the USA.

Issues in dealing with e-waste:

    • Health risk :  Workers managing e- waste are exposed to hazardous substances such as mercury and lead during unsafe e-waste recycling activities. Operating in environments devoid of proper ventilation or personal protective equipment, these workers are at high risk of sustaining physical injuries and chronic health issues.
      • For example: In 2021, WHO released its first global report on e-waste and child health, which called for greater effective and binding action to protect children from the growing threat. 
    • Environmental risk : E- waste is non biodegradable. The negative environmental externalities stemming from the existing scale of informal sector-led e-waste management are equally concerning. The mishandling of electronic waste severely impacts the environment, affecting air, water and soil quality.
      • For example : Improper disposal of electronic trash in landfills or illegal dumping areas allows chemicals to seep into the soil, contaminating groundwater and affecting crops.


  • Lack of collection and recycling facilities: E-waste requires special handling and centers for e-waste management are limited. In 2019, an estimated 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste were produced globally, but only 17.4% was documented as formally collected and recycled.



India’s approach to e-waste management:


  • Institutional arrangement: Central pollution control board (CPCB) is the nodal for e-waste management in India. It collects data related to e-waste generation and provides standard guidelines for their disposal and recycling
  • Legislative framework: In India, E-waste is covered in Schedule 3 of “The Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2003”.  The Government of India introduced E-Waste Management Rules in 2016 which have  seen successive amendments with the latest one being in 2023.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) : India follows the policy of EPR which requires most manufacturers , retailers and wholesalers  of electronic equipment to register with CPCB and set up a mechanism to refurbish , reuse or recycle end of life products. 



Lacunae in the Indian approach:

  • Lack of proper collection and recycling centers: While recycling of e-waste in India has picked up from a mere 10% in 2017-18 to about 33 % in 2021-2022, up from previous years, it indicates that a staggering 10,74,024 tonnes (67%) of e-waste  still remains unprocessed.
  • Missing ecosystem for a circular economy : Countries like Switzerland despite being one of the biggest global producers of e-waste – collects and recycles roughly 90 percent of its e-waste. This is due  to a strong and convenient voluntary ‘take-back’ system, where consumers can take e-waste to a dedicated recycling collection point or any electronic shop that sells the same type of equipment throughout the country.  A strong recycling system also solves the problem of short supply of critical minerals.
  • Lack of awareness about hazards of e-waste : Workers dealing with e-waste are seldom aware of its hazardous impact and mostly deal with it in an unscientific manner and without the use of personal protective equipment.
    • For example :  In 2010, a person lost his life in Mayapuri scrap yard of Delhi due to the radiation emanating out of a cobalt-60 pin while dismantling an electronic machine. 


The way ahead for India in dealing with e-waste lies in formalizing e-waste collection, strengthening the right to repair framework and creating an ecosystem for a circular economy.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG-12) talks about ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns, which is the need of the hour for tackling the menace of e-waste.

Subjects : Environment
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