Environment & Biodiversity

E-Waste and the Circular Economy

  • The Indian Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) recently published a research titled, ‘Pathways to Circular Economy in the Indian Electronics Sector.’
  • This paper, created in conjunction with NITI Aayog, investigates the potential for using electronic trash (e-waste) to build a circular economy in India’s electronics sector.
  • It emphasises the $7 billion business potential that may be tapped through comprehensive e-waste management.

India’s Current E-Waste Management Situation

  • Predominantly Informal: E-waste management in India is predominantly informal, with a competitive informal sector handling around 90% of e-waste collection and 70% of recycling.
  • The Informal Sector’s Role: The informal sector specialises in salvaging parts from obsolete equipment and profits from repairs. Precious metals such as gold and silver are extracted from printed circuit boards (PCBs) in industrial centres such as Moradabad.
  • Efforts of the Government: To digitise and offer visibility into the e-waste movement, the Union Government enacted the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2022. The informal sector, however, continues to be a significant force in e-waste handling.

The Importance of a Circular Economy

  • Expanding Demand: Electronics demand is expanding across all price ranges, resulting in resource-intensive production and excessive emissions.
  • Economy of the Circular A circular economy seeks to reintegrate discarded electronics, their components, and precious metals into the electronics ecosystem, thereby reducing waste and boosting resource efficiency.
  • Wealth development can be achieved by viewing materials as resources rather than waste.ry.

Recycling E-Waste

  • Public-Private collaborations for Recycling E-Waste: The ICEA research promotes public-private collaborations to develop a full “reverse supply chain.” This chain would entail gathering devices, deleting personal data, and then processing and recycling them.
  • Auditable Database: It is recommended to create an auditable database of materials acquired throughout this procedure, as well as to build geographical clusters for device disassembly.
  • Recycling Centres with a High Yield: To maximise the value of electronic devices, it is recommended to incentivize high-yield recycling centres.
  • Repair Encouragement: Encouraging repair and prolonging product lifespans, possibly through user support for a right-to-repair, can lessen the environmental impact of e-waste.

E-Waste Management Difficulties

  • Informal Sector: Because the informal sector is big and competitive, it is difficult to manage and control, making adherence to environmental standards difficult.
  • Device Stockpile: An estimated 200 million devices are sitting unused in customers’ homes because people are afraid about their personal data being compromised when discarding equipment.
  • Capital-intensive: Establishing large-scale recycling factories necessitates significant capital expenditure, with difficulties in obtaining reliable resources.
  • Material Scarcity: Because resources are distributed and supply channels are uncertain, securing materials to stabilise recycling operations is a challenging challenge.
  • Transition from Informal to Formal: Replicating the informal sector’s achievements in a formalised and consistent manner remains a big problem.

@the end

  • The conversion of e-waste management into a circular economy is a significant opportunity for India’s electronics sector.
  • While the informal sector now rules the e-waste environment, there is an increasing need to formalise and regulate e-waste management.
  • The hurdles are significant, but with the appropriate legislation, public-private partnerships, and incentives, India can capitalise on the $7 billion market opportunity while also encouraging resource efficiency in its electronics sector.
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