E-waste is the waste generated due to the disposal of electronic items or goods. E-waste can simply also be defined as those items that have some sort of circuitry in them that can perform tasks upon passage of electricity through them. The production of E-waste is directly proportional to the amount of electronic goods being produced and consumed in the overall global economy.
E-waste has been on a rise ever since the discovery of the computer and when such technology went public, the wide access resulted in its irresponsible use.
Comparing the trends of the past and the present, in India, the computer system and a mobile phone was a scarce commodity, accessible only to the rich people. It was available to the public at large through public usage areas such as cyber cafes and smartspots provided by various companies. With the rise in technological dominance in every domain, from communication to education; especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of e-waste being generated has doubled and quadrupled in some cases.
There are various sources of E-waste in our country. The primary sources are:
- Leftovers from production: The production of an electronic product is not a simple task. Semiconductors, displays and other components are delicate and hence are susceptible to failure at the earlier stage itself. According to a report, the mobile manufacturing process leads to a thirty percent failure rate of semi-conductor chips. This means that out of 100 processors being ordered, 30 of them are most likely to fail due to a plethora of reasons. This leads to wastage on a large scale as manufacturing companies order such commodities in bulk.
- Spare parts business: When any product is made, it is made keeping in mind the fact that there is a chance of malfunction of any component in the product. Hence, the manufacturers make more part of the device for replacement and servicing purposes. In some cases however, the full stock of such product is not consumed and when a component is made for a specific design, it can no longer be altered and hence it ends up in the trash.
- Company tactics: There are various types of companies that sell electronic products. Depending on the price range of their products, they tend to use the strategy that brings them the most profit without keeping in mind the environmental impact of the same. For example, in the Indian mid-range smartphone market, there is a new device being launched every 4 months as opposed to 1 year in the high-end bracket. This is done for maximization of profits. The degrading tactics of such big multinational tech companies plays a role in the ever increasing e-waste being generated.
- Public perception: Everyone wants the latest technology in their hands. They go on to buy new products which can essentially perform the same task as the previous one they had. If there is a gap of 2 or 3 years it is justifiable but having a gap of 1 year between switching a product for a new one is not justified as one year in the tech world leads to not that big of a gap in terms of performance. Most people fall into the trap of FOMO (Fear of missing out) and go on to buy a new product every year expecting better performance when there is a meager upgrade. A new device can be used for at least 3 years if we consider normal and equitable use.
It is important that e-waste gets recycled in a safe, appropriate, and efficient manner. However, due to poor infrastructure, a very small percentage of the total e-waste generated gets recycled. Currently, E-waste in India is being managed by the informal sector which does not have the adequate means or awareness to deal with E-Waste appropriately. This leads to ineffective e-waste management which damages the environment. It also poses great health risks to the e-waste workers as various components of products contain toxic substances like cadmium, arsenic, mercury, etc., which if not dealt with properly, cause harm to human health.
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 were enacted. These rules were brought into force to enable recovery and reuse of useful material from e-waste, thereby reducing the hazardous wastes being set for disposal. This was done to ensure the environmentally sound management of all types of e-waste and to address the safe and environment friendly handling, transportation, storage and recycling of e-waste. Furthermore, the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was introduced which made manufacturers liable for safe disposal of electronic goods.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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