WASTE MANAGEMENT ISSUES AND RULES IN INDIA
According to the Environment Protection Act, 1990, waste is defined as: “any substance which constitutes a scrap material, or an effluent or other unwanted surplus substance arising from application of any process”.
Classification of waste
Biodegradable waste: These can be degraded through microbial activity. E.g: food residue, human excreta, etc.
Non-Biodegradable waste: Petroleum, plastic, glasses, etc.
Bio medical: Needle, syringe, body parts, etc.
E-waste: Computer parts, batteries, CFL bulbs, etc.
Sources of Waste
Domestic waste: polythene, bottles, food, cotton, etc.
a) Food processing: Organic wastes, pathogens, etc.
b) Paper: Chlorine, sulphur dioxide, methyl mercaptan, etc.
c) Textile: From boiling and processing of fibre
d) Petroleum: Inorganic sulphur, hydrocarbons, organic acids, etc.
e) Chemical: Phosphorus, fluorine, silica, etc.
f) Metal: Copper, lead, chromium, cadmium.
g) Cement: Particulate matter, dust.
h) Nuclear reactor: Radioactive waste.
i) Agricultural waste: Fertilizer, crop residue, pesticide (like DDT), fumigants.
Radioactive waste: X-Ray machines, nuclear plants, laboratories etc.
Municipal waste: Waste produced by public offices, parks, shops etc.
Waste generation in India
With rapid urbanization, industrialization and an explosion in population in India, solid waste management will be a key challenge for state governments and local municipal bodies in the 21st century.
Presently in India, about 960 million tonnes of solid waste is being generated annually as by-products during industrial, mining, municipal, agricultural and other processes. Of this 350 million tonnes are organic wastes from agricultural sources; 290 million tonnes are inorganic waste of industrial and mining sectors and 4.5 million tonnes are hazardous in nature.
However, it’s not the amount of waste generated that’s as much of an issue as the fact that more than 45 million tonnes, or 3 million trucks worth, of garbage is untreated and disposed of by municipal authorities everyday in an unhygienic manner leading to health issues and environmental degradation.
Only 68% of the garbage generated in the country is collected, of which 28% is treated by the municipal authorities. Thus, the poor collection and treatment of waste leads to dumped garbage on streets clearly showing up the poor and inefficient system available to tackle waste management in urban areas. If this issue is not tackled efficiently and better policies and practices for waste management are not adopted, the total waste generation is projected to be 165 million tonnes by 2031 and 436 million tonnes by 2050.
It is interesting to know that untapped waste has a potential to generate from 32,890 TPD of combustible waste, 439 MW of power which is enough to meet the power demand of a union territory like Pondicherry. This includes refuse-derived fuel (produced by shredding and dehydrating garbage) and 72 MW of electricity from bio-gas, as well as 5.4 million metric tonnes of compost annually that could support farming. Plastics, paper and glass constitute 17% of the recyclable waste and this is important because plastic waste, composed of high-calorific-value material, is a crucial fuel for solid waste-to-energy plants.
The amount of waste that is generated, if collected and treated well, can be effectively used to generate energy.
Impact of Waste Accumulation
According to World Health Organization 22 types of diseases can be prevented or controlled by improving solid waste management in India. Hence, people in India as well as local municipal bodies should change their casual attitude towards waste management. A more collective, structured and institutional approach from all stakeholders will be required to address this menace. It can lead to:
Surface water contamination: Wastes that end up in water bodies negatively change the chemical composition of the water. It affects all ecosystems existing in the water. It can also cause harm to animals that drink from such polluted water.
Soil contamination: Hazardous chemicals can get into the soil (contaminants). It can harm plants when they take up the contamination through their roots. If human eat plants and animals that have been in contact with such polluted soils, there can be negative impact on their health.
Pollution: Bad waste management practices can result in land and air pollution and can cause respiratory problems and other adverse health effects as contaminants are absorbed from the lungs into other parts of the body.
Leachate: A major problem arising from landfills is the discharge of leachate which is formed by water passing through the tip and thus becoming contaminated with various organic and inorganic pollutants. This subsequent movement of the leachate into the surrounding soil, ground water or surface water could lead to severe pollution problems.
Effect on terrestrial life: lead and mercury poisoning, respiratory disease, decrease in photosynthesis, etc.
Effects on aquatic life: coral bleaching, algal bloom and death of marine animals.
Methods for Waste Management
Waste management is a collective activity involving segregation, collection, transportation, re-processing, recycling and disposal of various types of wastes.
Different methods are:
This method involves burying off the waste in the vacant locations around the cities. The dumping site should be covered with soil to prevent contamination. Suitable trees should be planted to hold the soil (of shallow roots).
Advantage of Landfills: If designed carefully they can serve as economical and quite sanitized method for waste dumping.
Disadvantage: Mostly unplanned dumping occur in suburbs and slums which causes serious environmental and health hazards. E.g: release of poisonous gases, secretion of toxic liquid, destruction of vegetation.
It is controlled high temperature oxidation (burning/thermal treatment) of primarily organic compounds that produce thermal energy, CO2 and water.
Advantages: Useful to deal with large quantities of organic hazardous waste and produces electricity.
Disadvantages: The installation is expensive (high cost of equipment and skilled operators) and Generates ash and toxic gases (HCL, CO, SO2).
C. Other Thermal Methods
Pyrolysis: In this process the solid is converted in to liquid state and liquid is converted in to gas. These products of treatment can then be used for the production of energy.
Gasification: The material to be treated is directly converted in to SynGas (synthetic gas) which has hydrogen and carbon dioxide as its components.
Bioremediation is the use of living organisms, primarily microorganisms, to degrade environ-mental contaminants into less toxic forms. e.g.: Pseudonymous bacterium can decompose synthetic pesticide.
Bioremediation techniques are more economical than traditional methods and pollutants can be treated on site, thus reducing exposure risks for personnel.
Waste management can be done in two ways: one is through waste reduction, and two through recycling. Consistent waste reduction and recycling activities mean there will be less waste materials to be sent to landfills and incinerators. As such, the emission of greenhouse gas and other forms of pollutant will be reduced by a large percentage. Reusing and recycling of used items will also result in less production of new products.
SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT
Solid Waste Management Rules (SWM), 2016 defines solid waste as solid or semi-solid domestic waste, sanitary waste, commercial waste, institutional waste, catering and market waste and other non residential wastes, street sweepings, silt removed or collected from the surface drains, horticulture waste, agriculture and dairy waste, treated bio-medical waste excluding industrial waste, bio-medical waste and e-waste, battery waste, radio-active waste generated in the area under the local authorities and other entities mentioned in rule 2 ( i.e. urban local body, outgrowths in urban agglomerations, census towns as declared by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, notified areas, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbases, Ports and harbours, defence establishments, special economic zones, State and Central government organisations, places of pilgrims, religious and historical importance as may be notified by respective State government from time to time and to every domestic, institutional, commercial and any other non residential solid waste generator situated in the areas).
Current global MSW generation levels are approximately 1.8 billion tonnes per year, and are expected to increase to approximately 2.2 billion tonnes per year by 2025. This represents a significant increase in per capita waste generation rates, from 1.2 to 1.42 kg per person per day in the next fifteen years. However, global averages are broad estimates only as rates vary considerably by region, country, city, and even within cities.
According to MoEF&CC, 62 million tonnes of waste is generated annually in the country by the 377 million people living in urban India, the world’s third-largest garbage generator at present, out of which 5.6 million tonnes is plastic waste, 0.17 million tonnes is biomedical waste, hazardous waste generation is 7.90 million tonnes per annum and 15 lakh tonnes is e-waste. It is only about 75-80 per cent of the municipal waste gets collected and only 22-28 per cent of this waste is processed and treated.
With rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and an explosion in population in India, solid waste management will be a key challenge for state governments and local municipal bodies in the 21st century. The “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” (Clean India Mission) was created to tackle these very issues related to waste management, cleanliness and sanitation on a national level.
Solid waste management is one among the basic essential services provided by municipal authorities in the country to keep urban centres clean. However, it is among the most poorly rendered services in the basket—the systems applied are unscientific, outdated and inefficient; population coverage is low; and the poor are marginalized. Waste is littered all over leading to insanitary living conditions. Municipal laws governing the urban local bodies do not have adequate provisions to deal effectively with the evergrowing problem of solid waste management.
Drawbacks in present solid waste management services
No Storage of Waste at Source: There is absence of practice of storing the waste at source in a scientifically segregated way. Citizens have not been educated to keep domestic, trade, and institutional bins for storage of waste at source and stop littering on the streets.
No System of Primary Collection from the Doorstep: There is absence of public system of primary collection from the source of waste generation. The waste discharged here and there is later collected by municipal sanitation workers through street sweeping, drain cleaning, etc. Street sweeping has, thus become the principal method of primary collection.
Irregular Street Sweeping: Even street sweeping is not carried out on a day-to-day basis in most cities and towns in India. The tools used for street sweeping are generally inefficient and out-dated. Traditional handcarts/tricycles are used for collection, which do not synchronize with the secondary storage systems. Waste is deposited on the ground necessitating multiple handling.
ransportation of Waste: Transportation of waste from the waste storage depots to the disposal site is done through a variety of vehicles such as bullock carts, three-wheelers, tractors, and trucks. A few cities use modern hydraulic vehicles as well. Most of the transport vehicles are old and open. They are usually loaded manually. The fleet is generally inadequate. Inefficient workshop facilities do not do much to support this old and rumbling squad of squalid vehicles. The traditional transportation system does not synchronize with the system of primary collection and secondary waste storage facilities and multiple manual handling of waste results.
Processing of Waste: Generally no processing of municipal solid waste is done in the country. Only a few cities have been practising decentralized or centralized composting on a limited scale using aerobic or anaerobic systems of composting. In some towns un-segregated waste is put into the pits and allowed to decay for more than six months and the semi-decomposed material is sold out as compost. In some large cities aerobic compost plants of 100 MT to 700 MT capacities are set up but they are functioning much below installed capacity. A few towns are practising vermi-composting on a limited scale.
Disposal of Waste: Disposal of waste is the most neglected area of SWM services and the current practices are grossly unscientific. Almost all municipal authorities deposit solid waste at a dump-yard situated within or outside the city haphazardly and do not bother to spread and cover the waste with inert material. These sites emanate foul smell and become breeding grounds for flies, rodent, and pests. Liquid seeping through the rotting organic waste called leachate pollutes underground water and poses a serious threat to health and environment. Landfill sites also release landfill gas with 50 to 60 per cent methane by volume. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide aggravating problems related to global warming.
Technologies available for disposal of solid waste
The main technological options available for processing/ treatment and disposal of MSW are composting, vermin-composting, anaerobic digestion/bio-methanation, incineration, gasification and pyrolysis, plasma pyrolysis, production of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), also known as pelletization and sanitary landfilling/landfill gas recovery. Not all technologies are equally good.
Reasons for inadequacy and inefficiency in services
a) Apathy of Municipal Authorities: Elected representatives as well as the municipal authorities generally relegate the responsibility of managing municipal solid waste (MSW) to junior officials such as sanitary inspectors. Systems and practices continue to be outdated and inefficient. No serious efforts are made to adapt latest methods and technologies of waste management, treatment and disposal. Though a large portion of the municipal budget is allotted for solid waste management, most of it is spent on the wages of sanitation workers whose productivity is very low. There are no clear plans to enhance their efficiency or improve working conditions through the provision of modern equipment and protective gear. Unionization of the workers, politicization of labour unions and the consequent indiscipline among the workforce are all results of bad working conditions and inept handling of labour issues. Almost all the 3955 towns with population below 100,000 run SWM services rather unprofessionally. They depend on sanitary inspectors to manage solid waste with the help of sanitation workers. In many small towns, even qualified sanitary inspectors are not posted and services are left in the hands of unqualified supervisors.
b) Absence of Community Participation:
Community participation has a direct bearing on efficient SWM. Yet, the municipal authorities have failed to mobilize the community and educate citizens on the rudiments of handling waste and proper practices of storing it in their own bins at the household-, shop- and establishment-level. In the absence of a basic facility of collection of waste from source, citizens are prone to dumping waste on the streets, open spaces, drains, and water bodies in the vicinity creating insanitary conditions. Citizens assume that waste thrown on the streets would be picked up by the municipality through street sweeping. For the general public, which is quite indifferent towards garbage disposal etiquette, the onus of keeping the city clean is entirely on the ULBs. This mind set is primarily responsible for the unscientific systems of waste management in the country.
Salient features of SWM Rules, 2016
Some of the salient features of SWM Rules, 2016 include:-
The Rules are now applicable beyond Municipal areas and extend to urban agglomerations, census towns, notified industrial townships, areas under the control of Indian Railways, airports, airbase, Port and harbour, defence establishments, special economic zones, State and Central government organizations, places of pilgrims, religious & historical importance.
The source segregation of waste has been mandated to channelize the waste to wealth by recovery, reuse and recycle.
Responsibilities of Generators have been introduced to segregate waste in to three streams, Wet (Biodegradable), Dry (Plastic, Paper, metal, wood, etc.) and domestic hazardous wastes (diapers, napkins, empty containers of cleaning agents, mosquito repellents, etc.) and handover segregated wastes to authorized rag-pickers or waste collectors or local bodies.
Integration of waste pickers/ ragpickers and waste dealers/ Kabadiwalas in the formal system should be done by State Governments, and Self Help Group, or any other group to be formed.
No person should throw, burn, or bury the solid waste generated by him, on streets, open public spaces outside his premises, or in the drain, or water bodies.
Generator will have to pay ‘User Fee’ to waste collector and for ‘Spot Fine’ for Littering and Non-segregation.
The bio-degradable waste should be processed, treated and disposed of through composting or bio-methanation within the premises as far as possible. The residual waste shall be given to the waste collectors or agency as directed by the local authority.
Construction and demolition waste should be stored, separately disposed off, as per the Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules, 2016.
It will take almost 4-5 years to see the drastic change in how the waste management regimes will work in India. The SWM Rules, 2016 diminish hopes in pushing for adoption of a decentralised mechanism for solid waste management. However, it would be challenging to see how segregation at source shall work on the ground. A massive awareness campaign in association with communities, NGOs, students and other stakeholders needs to be planned to push for better implementation of these rules. The Rules need to focus on making solid waste management a people's movement by taking the issues, concerns and management of solid waste to citizens and grass-roots.
E-WASTE MANAGEMENT AND HANDLING
E-waste has been defined as "waste electrical and electronic equipment, whole or in part or rejects from their manufacturing and repair process, which are intended to be discarded".
The main factors identified to be responsible for the increased consumption and productions of electrical and electronic equipment are rapid economic growth, coupled with urbanization and industrialization. The Indian Information Technology (IT) sector is one of the major contributors to the global economy. At the same time, it is responsible for the generation of the bulk of E-waste or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in India. Although the global E-waste problem has been able to attract attention across the world, not much emphasis has been given to the E-waste engendered in developing countries. Developing countries like India, today, is burdened with the colossal problem of E-waste which is either locally generated or internationally imported, causing serious menace to human health and environment. The hazardous components in electrical and electronic equipment are a major concern during the waste management phase. In the context of India, recycling of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment is not undertaken to an adequate degree.
Environment concerns and Health hazards
E-waste is highly complex to handle due to its composition. It is made up of multiple components some of which contain toxic substances that have an adverse impact on human health and environment if not handled properly. Often, these problems arise out of improper recycling and disposal methods. This underlines the need for appropriate technology for handling and disposal of these chemicals.
Pollutants or toxins in e-waste are typically concentrated in circuit boards, batteries, plastics, and LCDs (liquid crystal displays). The waste from electronic products include toxic substances such as cadmium and lead in the circuit boards; lead oxide and cadmium in monitor cathode ray tubes (CRTs); mercury in switches and flat screen monitors; cadmium in computer batteries; polychlorinated biphenyls in older capacitors and transformers; and brominated flame retardants on printed circuit boards, plastic casings, cables and PVC cable insulation that releases highly toxic dioxins and furans when burned to retrieve copper from the wires. Many of these substances are toxic and carcinogenic. The materials are complex and have been found to be difficult to recycle in an environmentally sustainable manner even in developed countries.
E-waste typically contains complex combinations of materials and components down to microscopic levels. The wastes are broken down in not just for recycling but for the recoverable materials such as plastic, iron, aluminium, copper and gold. However, since e-waste also contains significant concentration of substances that are hazardous to human health and the environment, even a small amount of e-waste entering the residual waste will introduce relatively high amount of heavy metals and halogenated substances. Such harmful substances leach into the surrounding soil, water and air during waste treatment or when they are dumped in landfills or left to lie around near it. Sooner or later they would adversely affect human health and ecology.
Unless suitable safety measures are taken, these toxic substances can critically affect the health of employees and others in the vicinity - who manually sort and treat the waste - by entering their body through respiratory tracts, through the skin, or through the mucous membrane of the mouth and the digestive tract.
When burnt or land-filled, these PVCs release dioxins that have harmful effects on human reproductive and immune systems. Mercury (Hg), which is used in lighting devices in flat screen displays, can cause damage to the nervous system, kidneys and brain, and can even be passed on to infants through breast milk.
Management of E-waste in Indian Context
The main sources of electronic waste in India are the government, public and private (industrial) sectors, which account for almost 70 per cent of total waste generation. The contribution of individual households is relatively small at about 15 per cent; the rest being contributed by manufacturers. Though individual households are not large contributors to waste generated by computers, they consume large quantities of consumer durables and are, therefore, potential creators of waste.
In India, it has been observed that in most of the cases, electronic items are stored unattended because of lack of knowledge about their management. Such electronic junks lie in houses, offices, warehouses etc. Generally, these wastes are mixed with household wastes, which are finally disposed of at landfills. This necessitates implementation of appropriate management measures including stringent regulations. The management practices currently in operation in India have severe health and environmental implications.
In India, primarily two types of disposal options based on the composition are in practice. These are Landfilling and Incineration. However, the environmental risks from landfilling of E-waste cannot be neglected because the conditions in a landfill site are different from a native soil, particularly concerning the leaching behaviour of metals. In addition it is known that cadmium and mercury are emitted in diffuse form or via the landfill gas combustion plant. Landfilling does not appear to be an environmentally sound treatment method for substances, which are volatile and not biologically degradable (Cd, Hg, CFC), persistent (PCB) or with unknown behaviour in a landfill site (brominated flame retardants). As a consequence of the complex material mixture in E-waste, it is not possible to exclude environmental (long-term) risks even in secured landfilling.
Advantage of incineration of E-waste is the reduction of waste volume and the utilization of the energy content of combustible materials. By incineration some environmentally hazardous organic substances are converted into less hazardous compounds. Disadvantage of incineration are the emission to air of substances escaping flue gas cleaning and the large amount of residues from gas cleaning and combustion. Waste incineration plants contribute significantly to the annual emissions of cadmium and mercury. The assessment of E-waste recycling sector in India indicates that E-waste trade starts from formal dismantling sector and moves to informal recycling sector. The entire E-waste treatment is being carried out in an unregulated environment, where there is no control on emissions.
E-Waste Management Rules, 2016
The salient rules are:
Manufacturer, dealer, refurbisher and Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) have been introduced as additional stakeholders in the rules.
The applicability of the rules has been extended to components, consumables, spares and parts of EEE in addition to equipment.
E-waste rules will now include Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) and other mercury containing lamps, as well as other such equipment.
The new Rules will bring the producers under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), along with targets. Producers have been made responsible for collection of E-waste and for its exchange i.e. the bulk consumers have to collect the items and hand them over to authorized recyclers.
Various 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.
Under the new rules the role of State Governments is to ensure safety, health and skill development of the workers involved in dismantling and recycling operations.
Provision of penalty for violation of rules has been introduced.
The process of dismantling and recycling has been simplified through one system of authorization and that the Central Pollution Control Board will give the single authorization throughout the country.
Toxic constituents present in E-waste and their disposal mechanism affect human health and lead to various diseases thus the transportation of E-waste has been made more stringent.
Deposit Refund Scheme has been introduced as an additional economic instrument wherein the producer charges an additional amount as a deposit at the time of sale of the electrical and electronic equipment and returns it to the consumer along with interest when the end-of life electrical and electronic equipment is returned.
Major Stakeholders/Responsibilities as mentioned in rules
a) Producer is any person who, irrespective of the selling technique used; "manufactures and offers to sell electrical and electronic equipment under his own brand; or offers to sell under his own brand, assembled electrical and electronic equipment produced by other manufacturers or suppliers; or offers to sell imported electrical and electronic equipment" has to take authorization under these Rules for implementation of EPR.
b) Bulk Consumers are bulk users of electrical and electronic equipment such as central government or state government departments, public sector undertakings, banks, educational institutions, multinational organizations, international agencies and private companies that are registered under the Factories Act, 1948 and Companies Act, 1956; who has to maintain records on E-waste generated and channelized to registered/authorized collection centres/recycler/dismantler.
c) Extended Producer Responsibility is a responsibility of any producer of electrical or electronic equipment, for their products beyond manufacturing until environmentally sound management of their end of life products, the scope of which has to be clearly defined while issuing authorization to individual producers.
d) Collection Centre is a centre established individually or jointly or a registered society or a designated agency or a company or an association to collect e-waste who has to obtain authorization under E-Waste Rules, 2011.
e) Dismantler is any person or registered society or a designated agency or a company or an association engaged in dismantling of used electrical and electronic equipment into their components who has to obtain authorization and registration under HW (M, H&TM) Rules 2008 /E-Waste Rules, 2011.
f) Recycler is any person who is engaged in recycling or reprocessing of used electrical and electronic equipment or assemblies or their component, who has to obtain authorization and registration under HW (M, H &TM) Rules 2008 /E-Waste Rules, 2011.
g) SPCBs/PCCs have been given the responsibility as regulatory agencies for implementing the E-waste Rules in respective States
h) CPCB was given the responsibility to evolve the guidelines for implementation, oversee the progress made in implementing the Rules and also to implement RoHSS compliance.
The inclusion of PROs is a welcome initiative in the draft rules. They are professional organisations authorised collectively by producers, but sometimes they also act independently or on a public-private partnership basis. PROs can take the responsibility of a group of producers for collection and channelisation of e-waste generated from the 'end of life' of their products. The concept works well in developed countries where a number of organisations come together to implement take back of e-waste financed by producers.
Another new feature that the draft rules have incorporated is the Deposit Refund Scheme. Under this, a portion of the sale price shall be retained by the producers and be refundable to consumers once the end-of-life products are channelised according to the prescribed methods.
Criticism of rules
First and foremost, it ignores the unorganized and small and medium sectors where 90 per cent of the e-waste is generated. The law currently does not provide for any plan to rehabilitate those involved in informal recycling.
The Rules also do not recognize the magnitude of transboundary movement of e-waste under different categories, for example, under the pretext of metal scraps and secondhand electrical appliances.
Penalty and punishment for non-compliance are in accordance with section 15 and 16 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 which says that whoever fails to comply with the rules will be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 5 years or with fine which may extend to Rs 1 lakh. Stringent penal provisions are a must which can deter erring parties from violating rules.
In India, the amount of E-waste generated is rising rapidly. With the increasing dependence on electronic and electrical equipment, the rise of E-waste generation is well expected in the country. However, the management of the same is a major challenge faced by the country. Indians are still to realize the associations between the cause of generation of E-waste and its effects including detrimental health and environmental effects.
"Hazardous waste" means any waste which by reason of any of its physical, chemical, reactive, toxic, flammable, explosive or corrosive characteristics causes danger or is likely to cause danger to health or environment, whether alone or when in contact with other wastes or substances.
Hazardous substances or contaminants in the municipal waste stream:
Components of electronic waste such as cadmium and lead and PVC sheathing on cables.
Household chemicals such as bleach, oven cleaners, mineral turpentine and paints.
Products incorporating nano particules (nano sized ingredients) such as zinc and titanium oxide in sunscreen and cosmetics and skin gel containing nano silver.
Hazardous substances in the commercial and industrial waste stream (e.g., chemicals, heavy metals).
Hazardous materials in the construction and demolition waste stream (e.g. Asbestos).
Outside those waste streams bi-solids, particularly sewage sludge, may be contaminated by a range of household chemicals, heavy metals and pharmaceuticals'.
Improper disposal of hazardous waste may pose serious risks to human health and the environment. For example, waste that is disposed of improperly may leach into the groundwater, where they may cause long term contamination of a region's water supply. This may have particularly serious consequences in agricultural communities, which depend on groundwater aquifers for irrigation and personal consumption.
Contamination due to improper disposal of hazardous waste can also be harmful in urban areas, especially slums, if untreated waste flows into open drains and enters water distribution systems. At the same time, exposure to hazardous waste through consumption, inhalation of polluted air, or through direct contact with skin may cause many acute and long term health risks. These threats vary greatly depending on the type of hazardous waste at issue, but may include carcinogenesis, reproductive abnormalities, and central nervous system disorders.
Issues in hazardous waste management
There is a fairly comprehensive legal and regulatory framework in place in India to address its hazardous waste management. Some of these challenges include a lack of financial resources, a shortage of staff, a lack of standardized protocols, and a lack of legal authority. In light of the various human health and environmental issues associated with improper hazardous waste disposal, it is critical that India overcome these challenges and ensure its hazardous waste is properly managed.
According to the UNEP Report, much of the 40 million tonnes of electronic waste produced around the world like old smartphones, TVs, laptops and obsolete kitchen appliances etc. finds its way illegally to Asia and Africa every year.
Close to 90 per cent of the world's electronic waste - worth nearly $19 billion - is illegally traded or dumped each year, to destinations half way across the world.
While the European Union the U.S. and Japan are the primary origins of e-waste shipments, China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan are the main destinations. In Africa, Ghana and Nigeria are the biggest recipients of e-waste. Illegal trade is driven by the relatively low costs of shipment and the high costs of treatment in the developed countries. Quoting an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, the UNEP report says that exporting e-waste to Asia worked out 10 times cheaper than processing it in within these countries.
The vast majority of illegal e-waste ends up in landfills, incinerators, and in ill-equipped recycling facilities. The waste is dumped in areas where local residents and workers disassemble the units and collect whatever is of value. What is not reusable is simply dumped as waste, creating immense problems and leading to what has been described as a 'toxic time bomb.
While Europe and North America are by far the largest producers of e-waste, Asia's cities are fast catching up as consumers of electronic goods and as generators of e-waste.
Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016
The rules make state governments responsible for environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes and mandate them to set up industrial space or sheds for recycling, pre-processing and other utilization of hazardous or other waste.
Producers and consumers of electronic goods have a responsibility under the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011 to ensure proper disposal, but progress has been slow for various reasons. Now the E-waste (Management) Rules 2016 provide several options to manufacturers, such as collection of a refundable deposit and paying for the return of goods to meet the requirements of law.
The onus on garbage management would continue to be the responsibility of municipal bodies, they would be allowed to charge user fees and levy spot fines for littering and non-segregation.
Making it incumbent on a wide variety of groups- hotels, residential colonies, large bulk producers of consumer goods, ports, railway stations, airports and pilgrimage spots to ensure that the solid waste generated in their facilities are treated and recycled.
The new rules distinguish hazardous waste from others such as waste tyre, paper waste, metal scrap and used electronic items
India has banned the import of solid plastic waste, including PET bottles, as part of new hazardous waste management rules that aims to prevent the country from becoming a dumping yard for industrialized nations.
Procedure has been simplified to merge all the approvals as a single window clearance for setting up of hazardous waste disposal facility and import of other wastes.
The state authorities have also been asked to register the workers involved in recycling, undertake industrial skill development activities and ensure safety and health of workers.
States must also submit annual reports regarding implementation of these rules to environment ministry. This is because workers employed in unscientific hazardous waste management practices suffer from neurological disorders, skin diseases, genetic defects and cancer.
The rules also mandates state pollution control boards to prepare an annual inventory of the waste generated, recycled, recovered, utilised including co-processed, waste re-exported and waste disposed.
The following items have been prohibited for import:
a) Waste edible fats and oil of animals, or vegetable origin;
b) Household waste;
c) Critical Care Medical equipment
d) Tyres for direct re-use purpose
e) Solid Plastic wastes including Pet bottles
f) Waste electrical and electronic assemblies scrap
g) Other chemical wastes especially in solvent form.
Extended Producers' Responsibility (EPR): The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified e-waste management rules, 2016, in which producers are for the first time covered under extended producers' responsibility (EPR).The rules prescribe a waste collection target of 30 per cent waste generated under EPR for the first two years, progressively going up to 70 per cent in the seventh year of the rule.
The rules prescribe stringent financial penalties for non-compliance. However, the study said the unorganised sector in India is estimated to handle around 95 per cent of the e-waste produced in the country. Given the huge user base and vast reach of telecom in India, it is practically difficult and expensive for the handset manufacturers to achieve the targets prescribed in the rules from first year.
The Environment Ministry has tightened rules by putting the onus on manufacturers, dealers, retailers and refurbishers of electronic goods to ensure that electronic or e-waste goods are collected and "scientifically" recycled.
Experts welcomed ban on import of plastic waste, but cautioned about allowing used electronic items as e-waste is already a huge problem in India. As per official estimates, everyday, 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India of which only 9,000 tonnes is collected and processed.
The new hazardous waste rules will ensure resource recovery and disposal of hazardous waste in an environmentally sound manner. The rules are environment and industry-friendly. The provisions of the new rules are in line with this government's priority for Ease of Doing Business and Make in India, but with responsible concerns for sustainable development.
Hazardous materials, including heavy metals, are dumped in garbage yards, polluting soil and water. The new rules have positive measures in this regard: they classify mercury-laden light bulbs as e-waste, which will keep them out of municipal landfills.
PET bottles are used by the fibre industry in India and import of plastic waste (PET bottles) is preferred because that ensures bulk availability. But India itself has a huge amount of plastic waste including PET bottles that remain uncollected and harm environment. These rules will ensure their collection and reduce load on our pollution. Industrialised countries like the US also do not allow importing plastic waste.
First time include a separate category of items like tyre, metal scrap, paper and certain electronic goods that can be recycled and reused.
New rules will ensure "resource recovery" and disposal of hazardous waste in a environmentally sound manner.
Waste management hierarchy in the sequence of priority of prevention, minimization, reuse, recycling, recovery, co-processing; and safe disposal has been incorporated.
The rules are environment and industry-friendly. The provisions of the new rules are in line with this government's priority for Ease of Doing Business and Make in India, but with responsible concerns for sustainable development.
The new rules say that producers will have to ensure 30 per cent e-waste collection, based on their projected sales, by 2018 and 70 per cent by 2023. They can do this through a variety of ways such as a deposit refund scheme, an e-waste exchange and they also have to pay for publicity and awareness programmes.
State will have to set up e-waste dismantling and recycling units in industrial park as well as register the workers involved with the e-waste business and finally, take up industrial skill development activities and ensure health and safety of workers.
The rules make state governments responsible for environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes and mandate them to set up industrial space or sheds for recycling, pre-processing and other utilization of hazardous or other waste.