Context: Around 25,000 workers including children are involved in crude dismantling of e-waste in Delhi, without any protective gears.
- According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020, the world dumped 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste in 2019.
- Global e-waste generation is projected to grow to 74.7 million tonnes by 2030.
- India produced 3.2 million metric tons of e-waste, much of which is dumped for dismantling and recycling with no regulations.
- It is commonly defined as “electrical or electronic equipment which is waste, including all components, subassemblies and consumables, which are part of the equipment at the time the equipment becomes waste”.
E-Waste (Management) Rules 2022
- Restricted the use of hazardous substances (such as lead, mercury, and cadmium) in manufacturing electrical and electronic equipment that have an adverse impact on human health and the environment.
- Targets fixed: Producers of electronic goods have to ensure at least 60% of their electronic waste is collected and recycled by 2023 with targets to increase them to 70% and 80% in 2024 and 2025, respectively.
- Extended Producer Responsibility Certificates (similar to carbon credit mechanism): This will allow the offsetting of e-waste responsibility to a third party.
- ‘Environmental compensation’ to be provided by the companies that don’t meet their target.
- Role of State Governments: They will earmark industrial space for e-waste dismantling and recycling facilities, undertaking industrial skill development and establishing measures for protecting the health and safety of workers engaged in the dismantling and recycling facilities for e-waste.
- Role of Central Pollution Control Board: It shall conduct random sampling of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market to monitor and verify the compliance of reduction of hazardous substances provisions.
E-Waste and Children
- An estimated 152 million children aged 5–17 years are involved in child labour, including 11.9% in the industrial sector, which includes waste processing.
- Some 73 million children worldwide engage in hazardous labour, with unknown numbers in the informal waste recycling sector
- E-waste recycling work can be considered child labour as it is potentially detrimental to children’s physical and mental development.
- Children as young as 5 years of age have been reported working in the sorting, dismantling and recycling of e-waste.
Harmful Effect of E-Waste on Children
- E-waste can be harmful to the health of humans and the environment if it is recycled inappropriately and without sufficient training, protection, infrastructure, equipment or safeguards.
- Children are more vulnerable than adults to toxicants released through e-waste due to their smaller size, less developed organs and rapid rate of growth and development.
- E-waste exposure has been linked to a variety of adverse health outcomes, including impaired neurological and behavioural development, negative birth outcomes and immune system impacts.
- Chronic exposure to e-waste and its toxic components violates children’s rights.
- For many children, lack of access to an appropriate justice system or an effective remedy further violates their human rights.
- By endangering tens of millions of children and women of childbearing age, improper disposal of e-waste threatens the health and abilities of future generations.
- Implementing laws: Government should ensure effective implementation of existing laws on child protection and waste management.
- This can be achieved only if different agencies like children’s rights groups work closely with other departments, like district-level administration.
- Safety of e-waste collectors: Ensuring health and safety of e-waste workers and communities with systems that train and protect workers, monitor exposure and health outcomes, and make protecting children the highest policy priority;
- Best health practices: Enforcing sound environmental health practices for disposal, recapture and reuse of materials;
- Circular economy: Shifting toward a circular economy by manufacturing more durable electronic and electrical equipment, using safer and less toxic materials, and encouraging sustainable consumption to reduce e-waste;
- Child labour elimination: Eliminating child labour and incorporating adult e-waste workers into the formal economy with decent conditions across the value chain of collection, processing and recycling, and resale by transitioning informal workers to the formal economy.
- Managing e-waste by prioritizing health and environmental protection throughout the life cycle, with reference to the Basel Convention, appropriate regional conventions and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on waste management.