January 27, 2022

E-Waste And Waste Trafficking- Faltering the Globe



In the era of rapid growth in technical advancement, it is difficult to decide whether we are walking towards pride or pollution. This 21st century development is highly appreciated which is gauged by 18th century Industrial revolution as acts like a touchstone in this world and in every country. India is ranked 5th in the world among top e-waste producing countries-USA, China, Japan and Germany with lack of an updated inventory of e-waste generated makes it difficult to quantify the e-waste recycled and disposed. Most of the Indians dispose mobile phone, television set, discarded computers, mobile chargers etc. by selling it to a scrap dealer.

Growing e-waste is not just one nation’s point of concern rather a global problem. Rapid changes in level of demand of convenience, capabilities and advanced electronic equipment creates increased e-waste. Laws may come into existence but its applicability is rare.


The obsolete, archaic, broken or irretrievable electronic devices like computers, printers, scanners, calculators, pagers, fax machines and many more outdated and irreparable devices. Printing cartridges, tapes, DVDs, CDs are also considered into this category. Industrial wastes like alarms, sirens, electronic sensors and military electronic wastes also fall in this category other than just waste production by domestic ones.

A waste falls under the scope of the Convention if it is within the category of wastes listed in Annex I of the Convention and it exhibits one of the hazardous characteristics contained in Annex III[1]. In other words, it must both be listed and possess a characteristic such as being explosive, flammable, toxic, or corrosive. The other way that a waste may fall under the scope of the Convention is if it is defined as or considered to be a hazardous waste under the laws of the exporting country, the importing country, or any of the countries of transit[2].

Problematic toxic elements:

Lead: The health effects of the toxic element lead are much negative. Exposure of it causes brain damage in children and has already been banned from many consumer products. It also disrupts the natural function of soil and water in the environment.

The metal has been used at least since 3000 B.C. for its efficient characteristics like durability ability to resist corrosion and it has high melting temperature.

Nearly all electronics contain some amount of lead-

This can be proved by the 2004 EPA report that revealed that ‘12 different types of electronics each leached lead into soils at rates that exceed EPA regulations in a study testing the leachate potential of various electronic devices. These included electronics common in most households across America – computers, keyboard mice, mobile phones, smoke alarms and remote controls. Additionally, cathode ray tubes, found in most computer monitors and televisions, contain large amounts of lead.’

Due to such negative potential for contamination by lead has led to certain bans on electronics in waste. For instance, CRT’s and televisions have been banned in landfills in California. [3]

The Indian and local studies also proves the hazardous effect of lead on creatures and life. “According to National Centre for Lead poisoning, the harmful levels of lead detected in many blood samples in Bangalore are linked unsafe recycling methods which were used initially for batteries and now it is for e-waste.”

Other harmful elements are Cadmium, Mercury, Beryllium, Arsenic, Poly vinyl Chloride (PVC) which include in the list.

Legislation Internationally:

Basel Convention:

it is an international treaty that was conceived in detail to reduce the movements of hazardous and multiple toxic waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries or to the developing countries and also aspired to minimize the quantity and toxicity levels of wastes generated, mainly to ensure their environmentally sound management. Basically, it’s a pillar to prevent and combat illegal traffic. The Technical assistance offered was making national legislation, setting up the inventories, to robust national institutions, assess the hazardous and problematic waste management situations, Prepare hazardous waste management plans, Provides legal and technical advice to countries to solve it.

Legislations in India relating to E-Waste And Waste Trafficking-:

Constitution of India– Article 21 which guarantees right to life contains the basic right and amenity to live in healthy and safe environment. The constitution assigns the solid waste management as prime responsibility of government through municipalities. Article 243-W in 12th schedule aims at the revitalizing and strengthening the urban government so that it can function effectively as units of local government in each part of the nation.

The E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011:

Its primary objective is to channelize the E-waste generated in the country for environmentally sound recycling which is largely controlled by the unorganized sector who are adopting crude and irregular practices that results in an increased level of pollution and less recovery, thereby causing wastage of precious resources and damage to the environment. Ministry of Environment and Forests / Central Pollution Control Board after consulting various stakeholders felt the need for preparing a guidance document for implementation of the provisions of these rules that may help the producers, consumer & Bulk Consumer, Collection Center, Dismantler, Recycler and Regulatory agencies for effective compliance of these rules and provides guidance on setting up collection mechanism, dismantling and recycling operations.

Problems arising due to waste trafficking:

The most perplexing matter is lack of authenticity of data generation and assessments. Most of the data generated on e-waste are only estimates. There is hardly any data on total imports of e-waste, both legal and illegal, into the country.

The GTZ MAIT study, carried out by IMRB, assessed e-waste generated from computers, mobiles and television and to assess waste illegally imported in the country. There has been an increase in the waste flows moving to the formal recycling units as the number of formal recycling facilities has more than doubled since 2007. [4]

Evolving e-waste problem in India

According to many other studies and researches, about 95 per cent of India’s e-waste is recycled in the informal and non-authenticated sector and in a crude and primitive manner which includes manual dismantling, separation and shredding, hazardous removal and collection using heating techniques, acidic extraction of metals and burning of waste to remove combustible plastics and isolating metals.

A 2015 report by the United Nations Environment Programme, India is one of the basic locations for large-scale shipments of hazardous wastes, including e-waste, in the continent of Asia. Ironically, according to the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Trans-boundary) Rules, 2016, importing e-waste for disposal is banned in India and can be considered as e-waste trafficking. For recycling, a prior permission from the government is required but only in case of second-hand products. However, the Central Board of Excise and Customs, lacks to distinguish between a second-hand product and e-waste. Even if the law allows the import of second-hand products for refurbishing, many terms and conditions are stapled like they have to be re-exported to the country of origin in 1-3 years. And these kind of stringent laws are not paid much attention.

In India, Moradabad, in U.P is at alarming situation in field of dumping and incapacitating condition of e-waste management. In the report presented by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in 2015 on Moradabad’s e-waste recycling industry said that residents in that area faced serious health problems like cancer and observed growth in environmental crisis too. The zinc levels were 15 times more, Copper was 5 times more in soil near Ganga and Cadmium was 1.3 times more than both of the countries in India.[5]


1. The principle of the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) aims to place full responsibility of collection of electronic products and their safe and proper disposal on to the producers. Incentives or any kind of reasonable benefits should be given to customer for giving old electronic goods for recycling to this established and authenticated units rather giving to people working in unorganized sector.

2. Government should advertise and spread more knowledge about the proper disposal techniques of electronic wastes from domestic wastes and support NGOs to help in this cause.

3. The Basel Convention has promoted the concept of the public sector and civil society for reducing hazardous wastes at source and promoting their recycling and re-use. Such arrangements should be made at domestic and national level.

4. Manufacturers of all products which fall under the list of e-wastes must be responsible for educating consumers regarding the threat to health and the environment due to invalid source of disposal.


We can afford a grand lifestyle but lack intelligence or implementation skills in managing the e-waste developed through requirements of our modern day society. It is one of the augmented elements in environmental and health crisis. But there is change of civilization into conquering nature. The need of credible data covering a wider range of products across the country is critical and requires immediate attention. Also, new waste management techniques should emerge to solve the upcoming crisis and prevent human health and environment. Government always plays a vital role in development and in ensuring public safety. Hence it has major responsibility to find and implement those solutions. Ensuring public responsibility is another main aspect to get a safe present and future.


[1] art 1 of Indian constitution

[2] art 1 of Indian constitution

[3] https://eridirect.com/blog/2016/02/5-hard-facts-about-lead-in-e-waste/ (last modified February 23,2016)

[4] Dr. S.Chatterjee, “Electronic Waste and India”, Sept.11,2011

[5] Nazar Abbas, “With 9 tonnes of e-waste daily, Moradabad turning into a dump” The Times of India, Sep 26, 2015.

Author Details: Shubhangi Gehlot

Law Library LawBhoomi

Leave a Reply