Recyclers storing e-waste hazardously: govt. report

Out of sync: A labourer shows a mobile electronic board at a factory in East Delhi, in this file photo.

Out of sync: A labourer shows a mobile electronic board at a factory in East Delhi, in this file photo.

Many of India’s electronic-waste (e-waste) recyclers aren’t recycling waste at all. While some are storing it in hazardous conditions, others don’t even have the capacity to handle such waste, says a new report prepared by the Union Environment Ministry.

India now has 178 registered e-waste recyclers, accredited by the State governments to process e-waste. India generates more than two million tonnes of e-waste annually, and the bulk of it is processed in the informal sector.

In 2017, the Centre brought into effect the E-waste Rules, which require companies that make or sell electronic equipment to collect a certain percentage of e-waste generated from their goods once they have reached their “end-of-life.” In 2017-2018, the companies were supposed to have collected 10%. This would rise to 70% by 2023. But doing this would require these firms to work with licensed e-waste recyclers and ensure that all e-waste is properly disposed off.

The Environment Ministry conducted checks at 11 registered recyclers and one unregistered recycler in May this year. The recyclers were located in Kanpur, Thane (Mumbai), Vapi (Gujarat), Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Alwar (Rajasthan). The checks led the Ministry to conclude in its report that “…a number of transgressions were seen committed by the recycling facilities such as adopting non-environmentally sound methods of storage, handling and processing of e-waste…non-compliance with guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)... Certain recycling facilities were non-operational or seemed to be inadequate to handle the capacity of e-waste,” says a letter by the Environment Ministry to the CPCB.

No disposal yard

One of the firms inspected was Khan Traders, a Kanpur-based recycler. It is authorised to collect, store, dismantle, segregate, and dispose of 7,190 tonnes of e-waste a year.

This includes air-conditioner compressors, television sets, computers and circuit boards. However, the firm does no e-waste recycling and only manually dismantles components, the report notes. It also doesn’t have a hazardous waste disposal yard. Shamsher Khan, the proprietor, told The Hindu that his firm was registered as a ‘dismantler’ and not as a ‘recycler.’ “The reality is that all firms registered as recyclers are all effectively dismantlers. Recycling requires specialised equipment, and that’s too expensive,” Mr. Khan said.

The CPCB and the State Pollution Control Boards are empowered to check whether recycling agencies are complying with the rules. “Though the laws are in place, these rules can be successful only if properly enforced. But that’s not happening,” an Environment Ministry official said.

A CPCB official said there were plans to inspect each of the 178 recyclers.

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Printable version | Jun 30, 2022 12:12:14 am |