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E-waste recycling in the non-formal sector by primitive methods can damage the environment. The ill-effects of e-waste could be on soil through leaching of hazardous contents from landfills; in water due to contamination of rivers, wells and other water sources; in air due to emission of gases and burning of e-waste.

A survey was carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) during 2005. It is estimated that e-waste generated in the country is expected to increase to about 8.0 lakh MT by 2012. The total quantities of generated e-waste in India, during 2007, were 3,32,979 Metric Tonnes (MT) (Computer: 56324MT, Mobile Phones: 1655MT, and Televisions: 275000MT) (Sources: Report on “E-waste Inventorisation in India”, MAIT-GTZ Study, 2007). Considering the growth rate, the volume of e-waste will reach nearly 1.72 millionMT by 2020.

In India, among top 10 cities, Mumbai ranks first in generating e-waste followed by Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Surat and Nagpur.

Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, the nodal agency for policy, planning, promoting and coordinating the environmental programme has laid down various rules including the management of e-waste under the Environment and Forests Hazardous Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2008, E-waste notification (Management and Handling) Rules, 2010 under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to address the safe and environment friendly handing, transporting, storing, recycling of e-waste and also to reduce the use of hazardous substances during manufacturing of electrical and electronic equipment. E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2010 rule has been enacted from May 1, 2012.

e-waste Recycling Practices in India

Non-formal Sector

Ninety-five per cent of the e-waste in India is being recycled in non-formal sector and five per cent of the e-waste volume is handled in formal unit. In and around of metropolitan cities in India, there are over 3000 units engaged in non-formal sector for e-waste recycling.

Non-formal units generally follow the steps such as collection of the e-waste from the rag pickers, disassembly of the products for their useable parts, components, modules, which are having resell value. The rest of the material is chemically treated to recover precious metals. Due to inadequate means, it may cause leaching of hazardous substances to the air, soil, and water. This recycling method has low efficiency and recovery is carried out only for valuable metals like gold, silver, aluminium and copper. Other materials such as tantalum, cadmium, zinc, palladium etc. could not be recovered.

Formal Sector

Few formal recyclers are operating in India. The processes followed in formal sector are mainly limited to the segregation, dismantling of e-waste till the size reduction stage of printed circuit boards (PCBs). A shredder is employed for PCBs size reduction. The pre-processed PCB is exported to smelting refineries in developed countries for further recovery of precious metals like copper, silver, gold, aluminum, palladium, tantalum, ruthenium, platinum etc. and also treating the slag byproduct in an eco-friendly manner. The end-to-end solution of e-waste recycling is still not available in India

The recycling/ recovery of valuables substances by units in formal sector is carried out in protected environment and with due care to minimize any damage to the environment or society. The use of advanced processes and technologies leads to efficient recovery of metals. Recovery technology by units in formal sector will be economically viable as the high cost of capital equipment and needed techniques could be shared by the volume of products. Efficiency of recovery in the formal recycling is high and metals at the trace level can also be recovered. Some technology works with zero-landfill approach.

Initiatives of Department of Electronics and Information Technology

Department of Electronics and Information Technology in the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology, Government of India, is the nodal Ministry for electronic industry. DIT is involved in promoting R&D to develop technological solutions for e-waste management in an environmental friendly manner leading to minimum landfill and zero emission to air, land and water. The recovery of valuable materials and reuse of plastics is aimed at making recycling an economically profitable business. A number of R&D projects have been initiated at national institutions in India. Some such projects are:

The project, entitled, “Development of processing technology for recycling and reuse of electronic waste” has successfully been implemented at National Metallurgical Laboratory, Jamshedpur, India – an R&D laboratory under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in March, 2011. In this project, indigenous technology has been developed to recover metal contents from e-waste with a recovery rate of 90%. The process is free from the generation of toxic gases and harmful effluents. The developed process has successfully recycled waste up to a pilot scale of around one metric tonne of e-waste. This aim is to take it to possible commercial application.

Department of Electronics and Information Technology has created a testing and certification facility at CMET, Hyderabad, India for the hazardous raw materials used for manufacturing electronic components under the project “Establishment of Testing facilities for the Hazardous Substances as per EU RoHS. This certification would help Indian companies, to export their products to European Union.

Another project on “Environmentally sound methods for recovery of metals from PCBs” is being carried at Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET), Hyderabad, with active participation of authorized recycler, M/s. E-parisara Pvt Ltd, Bangalore. The goal of the project is to develop environmentally sound methods for depopulation, segregation and treatment of components and a recovery method for metals from de-populated PCBs.

Another project on “Novel recovery and conversion of Plastics from WEEE to value added products” is being carried at Central Institute of Plastics Engineering & Technology (CIPET), Bhubaneswar. E-waste comprises of seven categories of plastics such as ABS, HIPS, PC, PP, PVC, Nylons, Epoxy, Phenolic and Polyesters. An end-user M/s Hairta NTI Chennai is actively participated in the project. DIT had taken several steps to help regulate pollution in electronic industries.

A project on “Development of Lead Free X-ray absorbing coating materials for CRT TV” has been successfully implemented, in March 2011, at Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET), Pune, India – an R&D laboratory under the Department of Electronics and Information Technology, where the hazardous lead contain in CRT glass shell will be replaced with environment friendly phospho-silicate glass composite/ phosphate composite as an X-ray absorbing coating. DIT had taken step to sensitize the research communities, industry association, recycling industry, NGOs to address the technological solution of the recycling of electronic waste.

Most of the e-waste is recycled in India in unorganized units. Besides, proper education, awareness and most importantly alternative cost effective technology, one approach to control the situation is for units in unorganised sector to concentrate on collection, dismantling, segregation, whereas, the metal extraction, recycling and disposal could be done by the organized sector.

Dr Sandip Chatterjee
Department of Electronics and Information Technology, New Delhi


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