Sustainable E-Waste Management in India

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1 Sustainable E-Waste Management in India Muralidharan Sree Shankari (University of Tsukuba) Higano Yoshiro (University of Tsukuba) Helmut Yabar (University of Tsukuba) Introduction E-waste is the end-of-life electronic and electrical gadgets. As a consequence of increase in production combined with rapid product obsolescence and lower costs, discarded electronic and electrical equipments or e-waste is now the most rapidly growing waste problem in the world. As per current estimates, the global e-waste market is forecasted to reach 53 million tonnes by Currently India is estimated to generate more than tonnes of e-waste annually. In India, e-waste is primarily recycled by people in the informal sector. Yet, insufficient and poor working conditions in addition to low environmental standards endanger people and the environment alike. The new rules and regulations alongwith increasing formal recyclers pose a serious threat to the livelihood of the informal sector. This trained human resource with their capacities gained over many years of operation and their skills in management of e-waste will be wasted if not utilized effectively. For e-waste management to be sustainable it should have all environmental, social and economical benefits. It is not sustainable if it makes thousands of poor people jobless to achieve environmental gains. So it becomes very important to inlcude this informal sector within the framework of current set of rules and integrate them with the formal recycling sector. This study examines the possibility of integrating the informal sector with the formal recycling sector and brings out the mutual gains from the increased co-operation between the formal and informal sector. Objective of the paper 1. To describe the role of the informal sector involvement in e-waste collection and processing in India; 2. To explain the waste flows in the e-waste recycling sector; 3. To suggest a method for integrating the informal and the formal sector; Methodology A comprehensive review of the existing literature was done to document the role of informal sector in recycling, especially e-waste recycling. The review included articles from scientific journals and reports published by leading multilateral organisations, non-profit organisations, research institutes, industry bodies and regulatory agencies on the e-waste recycling from 2003 to 2012.

2 Informal sector Informal workers are those whose legal status is not clear. These include workers who work in units or who may be individual workers employed on a daily basis. They also include migrant workers who are used as cheap labour in the unorganised sector. They are not governed by any laws related to employment. Most workers in the cities are a part of this informal or the unorganised sector such as the daily wage workers in markets, domestic helpers, rag pickers, etc. Waste business and informal sector Waste management activities like collecting, sorting, trading and processing waste materials serve as income opportunities for large numbers of uneducated poor and also provide a solution for waste management problems in developing countries. Role of informal sector in waste management: Rapidly increasing waste volumes alongwith complexity and capacity constraints of local authorities to manage it. Ability of informal workers to divert waste going to landfills Significant reduction in GHG emissions by informal recycling comparitively Utilization of the economic value of waste Inadequate waste management infrastructure Figure 1: Comparison of average annual GHG emissions reductions by waste treatment options Informal sector in e-waste in India In India reports suggest that 95% of the e-waste is segregated, dismantled and recycled in the informal sector. This sector includes waste pickers, collectors, scrap dealers, dismantlers and recyclers.

3 Figure 2: Hierarchy of informal recycling sector in India Material and process flow The informal sector, though unorganised has a well-defined hierarchy and structure. The waste collectors are the most important link in this waste flow and are responsible for the collection of waste from all consumers and manufactures. The waste then flows to scrap dealers, who at the first stage separate the functional components, reuse them, and also engage in refurbishing some of the discarded electrical and electronic equipments (EEE). The remaining part is dismantled or sold off to dismantlers. It is here that the waste is further separated as monitors, CPU and other parts and then broken down to individual components and materials. The waste then finally is sent to recyclers for material recovery. The unused and unsold component and material, both at dismantling and recycling levels, ends up at the landfill. Figure 3: Material and financial flow in e-waste management in India

4 Financial flow Recycling of e-waste is a market-driven and growing industry in India. The waste collectors pay consumers a positive price for their obsolete appliances unlike in the developed countries where consumers are charged a fee for disposal (Advance Recycling Fee or Disposal Fee). The small collectors in turn sell their collections to traders who aggregate and sort different kinds of waste and then sell it to recyclers, who recover the metals. The reusable equipments and components are segregated and attract a higher price in the market. In case of e-waste discards from large companies they are auctioned through tenders to the highest bidders. At times the dealers jointly bid for the scrap and share the total waste among them for further processing. Growth of formal recycling The shift of waste to clean channel is important due to its the environmental and health advantages. But the formalisation of e-waste recycling may render thousands of informal workers unemployed. The role of informal sector in collection, segregation and dismantling is very important, both environmentally and socially. The E-waste (Management & Handling Rules) were framed in 2012 with the clear objectives of safeguarding environment and promoting safe and efficient recycling of electronic waste in India. The new legislation requires producers and bulk consumers of electronic waste to collect e-waste material for further handling only to registered collectors, dealers and those that take apart (dismantlers) and recycle scrap material (recyclers). The new rule has been able to foster the growth of formal recycling industry, but it has failed to put a curb on the informal operations. The formal units are unable to access the materials due to the informal collectors who are able to reach for the door-to-door collection and are able to pay a good price for the e-waste in comparison to the formal recyclers. The formal recycling units have high investments and high overheads to meet the environmental compliance requirements. As a result they are not able to meet the price demanded by the vendors or the consumers and are thus unable to access e-waste. A mutual support system that will provide a balance between the cheap labour intensive operations in the informal sector and the sophisticated mechanized operations in the formal recycling units is thus needed. Hence it is important to look at the possibilities of integrating the informal sector in the emerging regulated system. Integrating the formal and informal recycling sectors As a first step in integrating the formal and informal recycling sectors, positive aspects of both the units are considered. In the proposed model, the collection, segregation and primary dismantling of e- waste are focused in the informal sector, while the other higher order processes are concentrated in the formal sector.

5 Figure 4: Dovetailing activities of formal and informal sectors Manually dismantling (informal) e-waste achieves the highest degrees of material purity. Such high levels cannot even be obtained by mechanically dismantling electronic waste as it is done in Europe. However, when it comes to extractive metallurgy, for example from printed circuit plates, a higher yield of material can be extracted using modern hydrometallurgical processes (formal) like in Europe rather than relying on extracting metal in acid baths in Indian backyards. By making the informal sector more formal, the small businesses wholly focus on collecting and dismantling the e-waste, while leaving the higher order operations to the formal recyclers in India and Europe. This guarantees that the competitive advantage of the informal sector in collecting and dismantling e-waste more efficiently is made use of. Recovering the resources professionally on the other hand decreases the environmental impact and ensures the highest possible yield of raw material at the same time. Figure 5: Integration of formal and informal recycling sectors The creation of associations that comprise different informal e-waste recyclers can be the first step towards achieving a formalisation of the informal sector stakeholders. The regulatory agencies can monitor the flow of e-waste so that it is within the clean channel. Civil Society Organisations (NGO) can also play very critical role in building capacity of the recyclers and also in bridging the gap between the regulator and informal sector. The government could support financially by provision of financial aid, financial incentives such as subsidies and introduction of insurance schemes.

6 Figure 6: Linking all the stakeholders in E-waste management Conclusion: The informal sector in e-waste management stand the risk of losing their livelihood in the wake of the new rules and mushrooming of formal entrepreneurs. Although it is important to have big investment recycling infrastructure in the country for e-waste recycling, it is equally important to safeguard livelihood of thousands who survive on this waste. In the current scenario, incorporating informal sector workers into e-waste management in India can be socially desirable, economically viable, and environmentally sound. The integration of the informal sector can contribute to reduce overall system costs, negative environmental and climate impacts by shifting the waste headed for disposal through improved reuse and refurbishment. And finally, it can help to generate income and improve working conditions of poor population who often do not have other economic opportunities. This report has tried to suggest a basic framework for integrating most players in the informal sector currently engaged in e-waste management. This can be changed depending upon local conditions and opportunities. This report shows that the integration of informal workers in e-waste management systems is possible and that it can contribute significantly to sustainable development. Reference: 1. ELCINA (2009). Study on Status and Potential for E-waste Management in India. 2. Ministry of Environment & Forests and Central Pollution Control Board (2008). Guidelines for environmentally Sound Management of e-waste. 3. L. Raghupathy. E-Waste Recycling In India Bridging The Gap Between The Informal And Formal Sector. 4. Toxics Link (2013). Environment and Livelihood Informal Sector Integration in E-waste Recycling

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