Analysis of Global E-Waste & Its Impacts


    Syllabus: GS 3 / Environment 

    • The Global E-waste Monitor 2024, brought out by United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and Fondation Carmignac, a corporate foundation.
    • The world produced 62 billion kg of electronic waste (e-waste) in 2022.
      • That number is projected to rise to 82 billion kg in 2030
    • The world’s generation of electronic waste is rising five times faster than documented e-waste recycling
    • The report also highlighted the composition of the 62 billion kg of e-waste.
      • It contained 31 billion kg of metals, 17 billion kg of plastics and 14 billion kg of other materials (minerals, glass, composite materials, etc.)
    • Region wise : Among regions, Europe has the highest rate of documented formal collection and recycling of e-waste at 42.8 percent.
      • Meanwhile, Africa generates the lowest rates of e-waste but struggles to recycle it.
      • Countries in Asia generate almost half of the world’s e-waste (30 billion kg) but have made limited advances in e-waste management; moreover, relatively few of them have enacted legislation or established clear e-waste collection targets.
    • E-waste, any discarded product with a plug or battery, is a health and environmental hazard, containing toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, which can damage the human brain and coordination system
    • Challenges contributing to the widening gap include technological progress, higher consumption, limited repair options, shorter product life cycles, society’s growing electronification, design shortcomings, and inadequate e-waste management infrastructure.
    • On the policy front, 81 countries have adopted e-waste policy, legislation or regulation. Sixty-seven countries have legal provisions on EPR for e-waste.
    •  Another 46 have provisions on e-waste collection rate targets. Finally, 36 countries have provisions on e-waste recycling rate targets.
    • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has comprehensively revised the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 and notified the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2022 in November, 2022 and the same is in force since 1st April, 2023. 
    • These new rules intend to manage e-waste in an environmentally sound manner and put in place an improved Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regime for e-waste recycling wherein all the manufacturer, producer, refurbisher and recycler are required to register on a portal developed by the CPCB.
    • The new provisions would facilitate and channelize the informal sector to the formal sector for doing business and ensure recycling of E-waste in an environmentally sound manner.
    • Provisions for environmental compensation and verification & audit have also been introduced. 
    • Amidst the hopeful embrace of solar panels and electronic equipment to combat the climate crisis and drive digital progress, the surge in e-waste requires urgent attention.
    • There is an immediate call for greater investment in infrastructure development, more promotion of repair and reuse, capacity building, and measures to stop illegal e-waste shipments. 
    • Concrete steps are urgently needed to address and reduce e-waste. 
    • Improved e-waste management could result in a global net positive of US $38 billion, representing a significant economic opportunity while addressing climate change and health impacts.
    • We must seize the economic and environmental benefits of proper e-waste management; otherwise, the digital ambitions of our future generations will face significant risks.
    • Monitoring the quantities and flows of e-waste is essential for evaluating developments over time, and to set and assess targets towards a sustainable society and circular economy. 
    Daily Mains Practice Question
    [Q] The enforcement of e-waste policy, legislation and regulation remains a genuine challenge globally.Elucidate