India Is The World’s Dumping Yard For E- Waste, And Our Future Is At Stake

India is becoming one of the biggest dumping yards of electrical and electronic appliances. The government has implemented the E-Waste (Handling) Rules, 2016 in effect from March 2016. The rules and norms have been made more stringent to reflect the government’s commitment to environmental governance. For the first time, the rules will bring the producers under the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

Producers have been made responsible for the collection of e-waste and its exchange. Bulk consumers must collect the items and hand them over to authorised recyclers. Different producers can have a separate Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) and ensure collection of e-waste, as well as its disposal in an environmentally sound manner. Compact Fluorescence Lamp (CFL) have been included under the rules.

The rules were introduced to force a reduction in the use of hazardous substances in the electrical and electronic appliances by applying threshold limit for the hazardous materials like mercury, lead, cadmium, etc. This rule applies to every producer, consumer or consumers in bulk, collection centre, dismantler, or recycler of e-waste involved in manufacture, sale, purchasing and processing of electrical and electronic appliances.

The rules have also brought about the concept of ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ through which the major responsibility of e-waste management has been assigned to the manufacturers of electronic and electrical appliances. EPR is a major characteristic of the rules and states that the producers of the electrical and electronic appliances are given the responsibility of managing the equipment after its end of the life for their products when the consumers discarded them.

Under the EPR, the producers are also entrusted with the responsibility to finance and organise a system to meet the cost involved in complying with EPR. Thus the producers are responsible for sectors like telecommunications and information equipment, consumer electrical and electronic appliances falling within specific categories. They must ensure that the products don’t contain lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, polybrominated biphenyls or polybrominated diphenyl ethers above a specified threshold.

However the E-Waste (Handling) Rules, 2016 is not applicable to lead acid batteries as they are covered under the batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001, micro and small enterprises as defined in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006 (27 of 2006) and radioactive wastes as covered under the provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, 1962 (33 of 1962).

Disposal of e-waste is in a critical state now as the demand and need for electronic and electrical appliances has increased many folds in the wake of new research and development. India is overloaded with a huge amount of toxic and hazardous e-waste that is estimated to be around 18,00,000 tonnes. On an average, an individual has 3-4 electronic appliances with a lifetime of hardly three years.

The rules outline the responsibilities of the producer, consumer, collection centres, consumer/bulk consumer, dismantler, and recyclers. The e-waste rules assign a clear cut responsibility for the producers to channelize ‘end of life’ products.

Producers have to set up collection centres and take back systems either individually or collectively. They also need to spread full contact details in public sphere about where the consumers could return their products. A comprehensive awareness mechanism through publication, electronic media or other communication media like the Internet, posters, pamphlets, etc. needs to be set up. Producers shall maintain a record for the scrutiny before the State Pollution Control Board and file annual returns on or before June 30 of every year.

Responsibility is assigned to the collection centres to ensure that such wastes shall not cause any damage to the environment during storage and transportation. The rules also assign responsibility for the consumers and bulk consumers to channelize the waste to the authorised collection centres, dismantlers or recyclers. The dismantlers need to shall ensure that the dismantled wastes are segregated and sent to the registered recycling facilities for recovery of materials and no damage to the environment is caused. Along with that, the recyclers need to ensure that that the facility and recycling processes are in accordance with the standards laid down in the guidelines published by the Central Pollution Control Board.

E-waste is 99% recyclable. But the channel of producers, collection centres, consumers/bulk consumers, dismantlers and recyclers have been failing to manage the e-wastes properly. As the consumption of more and more gadgets and electronic devices is increasing so is the waste. When e-waste is thrown into landfills, a significant amount of energy is also lost with it directly or indirectly. While developed nations are trying to make developing countries there dumping yards of the humongous amount of waste they generate, a significant informal sector is seen taking the responsibility of managing it with the intention of extracting money from waste. In past few years, this industry has continuously grown, and concerns of increasing health hazards because of the improper dismantling of e-waste, pollution in air water and soil, child labour and many others have also grown.

It is expected that by 2020 India alone will generate one lakh tonne of e-waste. When this becomes the figures, then it becomes hard to imagine our future. The need to convert this informal sector into a more organised sector in which measures like the proper dismantling of e-waste, precautionary measures towards individual involved in the processing of the extracting process, etc. need to be given wider emphasis. In the unorganised sector several health related problems, as severe as cancer are being noticed as they are an effect of the highly toxic chemicals like furans, CFS and mane. Proper implementation of these policies must be checked.

Since India does not have a full-fledged capability of extracting precious metals like gold, silver and platinum from the e-waste, they have been shipping 200 tons of E-Waste annually to Japan, Belgium and Singapore.

E-Parisara Pvt Ltd is the only government extracting precious metals partially. The firm has a partial capability to extract precious metals from the visible parts of the motherboards and mobile phones. India doesn’t have a full-fledged smelting unit to extract precious metals from e-waste which is not visible to the eyes. Consequently, such non-extractable e-wastes is being shipped to Belgium and Japan for further smelting to remove precious metals. Billions of dollars are required for setting of an advanced smelting unit. India has been working to set up such advanced full-fledged smelting unit to extract precious metals from the invisible microscopic parts of E-Waste. It’s an ambitious public-private project which will be completed within 3-4 years.

Setting up of such full-fledged advanced smelting units to extract precious metal components from e-waste requires tremendous amounts of financial investments.However, the government has so far lost a golden opportunity to set up an extremely profitable business exercise. Despite the need for a substantial investment, the government is well aware of the path from waste to wealth. Investing over such full-fledged installations would not only help us to eradicate the toxic substances but also have a tremendous amount of future economic security.

Hopefully, we will have an organized infrastructural channel from producer to collection centre to consumer/bulk consumer to a dismantler and then the recycler. Major manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment shall strictly work in accordance with the assigned guidelines within the e-waste handling rules. However, India would have to prevent a massive influx of e-waste from the developed countries. Major developed nations are dumping their e-waste in the Arabian Sea. Such mass dumping of e-waste has seriously been affecting the marine ecosystem and its biodiversity.

Consumers are the users of such electrical and electronic appliances. Therefore, they should be made aware of the hazardous impacts of such e-waste over their health and environment. We must introduce new chapters on e-waste in environmental studies so that the abuse of the e-wastes could be mitigated.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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