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“E-waste- a new threat to the world

“E-waste" a new threat to the world: UN

E-waste – E-waste or electronic waste refers to the electronic equipment being thrown away.
It includes discarded computer monitors, motherboards, Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT, Printed Circuit Board (PCB), mobile phones and chargers, compact discs, headphones, while goods such as Crystal Displays (LCD) Plasma television, air condition, refrigerator and so on.

The world produces as much as 50 million tones of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) a year, weighing more than all of the commercial airliners ever made: only 20% of this is formally recycled.

If the per capita generation of e-waste is taken into account individually. Then every person on the planet at present is responsible for generating 6 kg of e-waste annually.

80% which is about (4.8 kg) of this either ends up in landfills or being informally recycled. 
The e-waste produces annually is worth over $62.5 billion, more than the GDP of most countries. There is 100 times more gold in a tone of e-waste than in a tone of gold ore.

SEVEN UN agencies have come together with the World Economic Forum, The Global Environment Facility and World Business Council For Sustainable Development, urging the world to address the rising problem of e-waste and find out the solutions to disposing and recycling of such waste, so that it can minimize environmental impacts and create decent, sustainable jobs.

E-waste Coalition

The report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes the international  Labour Organization (ILO); International Telecommunication Union (ITU); United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment); United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); United Nations University (UNU) and secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm conventions.

Global-waste production is on track to reach 120 million tons per year by 2050 if the current situation continues. 
According to a report from the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) and the UN E-waste coalition released at Davos on January 24. 2019.

Refereeing to the economic aspect of non-recycles e-waste, it noted how improper management of e-waste is resulting in significant loss of scarce and valuable raw material, such as gold, platinum, cobalt and rare earth elements.

Global e-waste estimate

Figures from the year 2016, compiled as the ‘global E-waste monitor 2017’ by United Nations University, show that India generated 2 million (20 lakh) tones of e-waste out of total 44,7 million of e-waste globally in that year. Europe and the US alone contribute to almost one-half of the total e-waste generated annually.

Concerns for India

As far as India is concerned, the country has the capacity to dismantle and recycle only 20% (over 4 lakh tones) of its total e-waste. Though there is no comprehensive state wise inventorisation of e-waste generation in India, the country has a total 178 dismantler & recycling units in 2017 with highest number of such units (57) being in Karnataka followed by Maharashtra (32), Uttar Pradesh (22), Haryana (16) and Tamil Nadu (14).

Health Threats

Due to inhalation of toxic fumes, as well as from accumulation of chemical in water, soil and food along with its hazardous components being processed, e-waste may give rise to several toxic byproducts which affect human health. In addition, recycling activities such as the dismantling of electrical equipment may increase severe risk and injury.

Children are particularly to the health risks from e-waste exposure and need more specific protection. While they are growing, children’s intake of water, air and food in proportion to their weight is significantly increased when compared with adults.
 The risk of hazardous chemical absorption is increased for children as well. It directly attacks on Immune system, digestive system, reproductive system, central nervous system.

E-waste mismanagement in India

India being a vast country, the producers/manufacturers do not have enough information on their website regarding e waste management.
 Customer care representative do not have any knowledge about any take back or recycling programmed and even if that set up collection centers, they are simply not enough for a geographically vast country like India. 
The other problem is to setting up the collection, if any of the brands try indivually to reach out to all corners of the country, improper enforcement of the existing laws is another hurdle.

Even the Global E-waste monitor 2017 flagged health concerns in India due to e-waste. Severe health impacts and environment damage are widespread in India due to the final step of the e-waste processing by the informal sector.


In June 2018 ASSOCHAM-NEC study in “Electrical & Electronics Manufacturing in India revealed that India recycles only 5% of its e-waste and the country is one of the biggest contributors of e-waste in the world.

A way forward

The report calls for systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises, academia, trade union, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries.

The capture the global value of materials in e-waste and create global circular value chains, use new technology to create service business models , better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programmes. 
Material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet of electronics supply chains are essential for future production.

The producers should also have buy-back or return offers for old equipment, and plans to incentivize the consumer financially. The system of ‘urban mining’ by strengthening the extended producer responsibility provision.

If the electronics sector is supported with right policy and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide.
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