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Managing Electronic Waste
1. Electronic industry is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing manufacturing industries.
2. It has helped in socio-economic and technological growth of India.
3. Growth of electronic industry poses a new challenge in the form of “Electronics Waste” or “e-waste”.
Why is it challenging?
1. E-wastes in India are generated due to computer, telecommunication, electrical and medical equipment.
2. Rapid urbanisation and economic growth also have increased the production and consumption of electronics and electrical equipment.
3. E-waste has made solid waste management a more critical task.
4. Mismanagement of e-wastes has led to problems of contamination and pollution.
5. E-waste also contains highly toxic components such as chlorinated and brominated substances, toxic gases, toxic metals, acids, plastics, lead, PVC, etc.
6. These chemicals are harmful to the environment and human health. They can affect kidney, nervous system, bones, lungs, etc.
What is the effect of e-wastes on health?
1. When heavy metals of e-wastes are improperly disposed, they leach through the soil to reach groundwater channels and eventually the surface.
2. Local communities depending on these water bodies suffer from multiple diseases.
3. These chemicals result in deaths of aquatic plants and animals.
4. Burning of e-wastes in air produces fine particulate matter and causes cardiovascular and pulmonary ailments.
5. Wind carrying toxic particles enter the soil-crop-food pathway affecting both humans and animals through the food chain.
6. When electronic products are dumped in landfills or incinerated, they pose health risks and damage the environment.
7. As the chemicals of e-wastes are not biodegradable, they persist in the environment for long time, increasing the risk of exposure.
Which are the issues?
1. India’s recycling sector is underdeveloped.
2. Lack of awareness about e-waste and its recycling.
3. The base metals which can be reused are lost and result in soil contamination due to unorganised and crude dismantling.
4. Responsibility of the consumer is not specified along with the products.
5. Technical and policy-level interventions, proper implementation, capacity building and increasing the public awareness are needed.
Where lies the solution?
1. E-waste can be contained by minimising its generation.
2. Longevity of the products must be ensured through re-use, repair and upgradeability features.
3. Stress should be laid on use of less toxic, easily recoverable and recyclable materials.
4. Policymakers should address all related issues ranging from production and trade to final disposal/ recycling.
5. A proper legal framework shall ensure that e-wastes from developed countries are not dumped in India for disposal.
6. Manufactures of products must be made financially, physically and legally responsible for their products.
7. Old electronic products should be carefully dismantled for its parts to be recycled or re-used.