In the simplest of terms, Electronic Waste, e-waste, or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), includes all types of electronic equipment/products which have become obsolete, or have been discarded due to advancement in technology or change in fashion, or the product is nearing the end of its shelf life. The term ‘e-waste’ refers to any old and outdated electrical appliance which has been disposed-off by its owners. E-waste thus would consist of discarded television sets, refrigerators, radios, old computers, telecommunication equipment, laboratory equipment and other handheld gadgets. E-wastes are hazardous, as some electronic parts consist of substances such as cadmium, lead, lead oxide, toxic gases, acids, biologically active materials, toxic metals, plastics and plastic additives. These materials are dangerous depending on their condition and density. The expansion of communication and information technology has increased the use of electronic equipment exponentially. Improvement of electronic products and the consequent rapid obsolescence are tempting consumers to discard old electronic products, which in turn generate huge amounts of e-waste in the solid waste stream.
According to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report, over 7.2 metric tonne (MT) of industrial hazardous waste, 400,000 tonnes of electronic waste, 1.5 MT of plastic waste, 1.7 MT of medical waste, 48 MT of municipal waste are generated in the country annually. With the rise in the electronic sector and the IT industry, the country’s e-waste industry is growing at 22 percent higher than the world average. Absence of proper recycling channels is a major cause of concern in India. With only 5 percent of the total production being recycled, government needs to play a pivotal role in developing proper recycling mechanisms. According to industry experts, lack of awareness and absence of proper infrastructure are some of the major challenges in the way of safe recycling of e-waste.
Recycling of e-waste and extracting precious metals from e-waste is a profitable exercise and the government should take steps to create appropriate infrastructure. While the initial investment is high, it would yield rich dividends in the long term.
The capsule reports are concise information about the industry; and the opportunities & challenges that it carries. It gives the past as well as the future prospects of the industry with a forecast for next five years. It also examines the diverse segments of the industry with all relevant inputs in place. The dynamics that propel the sector, namely, opportunities, competition, infrastructure investment and regulatory policies are also explored in the report.