Aligning e-Waste Challenges with the PM’s Vision of Swachh Bharat
With ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ the objective is to turn India into an economic and manufacturing superpower. However, as manufacturing grows in India, consumption patterns will change and product lifecycles, which are short already, are likely to get even shorter. This would mean more people would discard or replace their durable products, faster.
This begs the question – what happens to the products that are getting replaced? What is the system to handle and dispose of them? And what role, if any, can Swachh Bharat play?
The majority of the Indian population has no inkling about how to handle their e-waste and continues to either sell it to scrap dealers or throw it with regular household garbage. And this garbage is hazardous! TVs have high levels of lead, which is extremely hard to dispose of; circuit boards, semiconductors, and copper wiring are hard to dispose of, and they also contain poisonous substances such as arsenic, beryllium, cadmium; PVCs are known to have carcinogens. The list goes on.
The safest way to treat e-waste is to recycle them. Approximately 1.5% of the e-waste in India is recycled by formal recyclers, while a 9.5% is done by informal agencies. These informal agencies at work have their own recycling units. But lack of proper training,
On the positive side, there are some recycling companies that have tried to bring about a more formal system of e-waste collection and sorting pan India. Manufacturers themselves are keen to support the government initiatives. Some of the challenges:
- Building awareness among consumers, dealers, members of the supply chain, and manufacturers, on the law created for safe and responsible disposal of end-of-life products.
- For customers, an Advance Recycling Fee (“ARF”, or Advance Disposal Fee, “ADF”) as a part of the purchase price.
- Rapidly increasing e-waste volumes via imports disguised as donations towards bridging the digital divide or as metal scrap need to be controlled.
In the wake of the success that the Clean India Mission has witnessed, there is a demand for including e-waste disposal as an integral part of the Clean India Campaign. CURE India has launched a campaign to get a signed petition to reach the PMO’s office. Perhaps the success of Swachh Bharat depends a lot on the awareness that has risen amongst the common man and that same awareness needs to spread about the mounting threat that e-waste is posing as well.
What better way to begin it than to bring it under the aegis of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan?