Rising Solar E-Waste in India?
As per a study conducted by Bridge to India (BTI), a consultant firm, India will be staring at a huge pile of solar e-waste by 2050.
In Short Details
- The study says that due to lack of rules regarding solar cell recycling or their proper disposal by solar cell manufacturers, the country will see a huge pile of solar e-waste by 2050.
- BTI estimated that the photovoltaic waste volume is set to grow to 200,000 tonnes by 2030 and 1.8 million tonnes by 2050.
- India is one of the largest markets for solar cells in the world.
- With the government’s commitment to generate by 2022, huge investments have gone into the sector to procure solar photovoltaic cells, of which the majority are imported from countries like China.
- The solar cell modules are made by processing sand into silicon and casting silicon ingots. They are then made into cells using wafers.
- Domestic companies majorly assemble the solar cell modules in the country.
- The material composition of solar cells is 80% glass and aluminium, and non-hazardous materials and the remaining 20% include polymers, metallic compounds and alloys, and metals that are classified as hazardous.
Handling The Waste
- As per the study, India is poorly positioned to handling waste from solar modules.
- It says that, due to the lack of policy framework, even a basic handling facility for laminated glass is unavailable in the country.
- Also, even after the framing of e-waste rules, only 4% of e-waste is being recycled in the country in the organized sector.
- The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had brought out E-waste rules in 2016 replacing earlier rules of 2011.
- In the new rules, the manufacturer, dealer, refurbisher and Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) are included as additional stakeholders.
- Components, consumables, parts and spares of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) have been brought under the rules.
- The principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which means the producer ensures to take-back end-of-life products has been strengthened.
- This was done by enabling the formation of Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO), e-waste exchange, deposit refund scheme, etc.
- The PRO will be financed collectively or individually by the producers.
- They share the responsibility of collecting and channelizing e-waste and ensures safe handling of e-waste.
- Electronic or electrical goods manufacturers are mandated to take back their sold products with recommended mechanisms.
- The new rules made it mandatory for manufacturers to not cross the concentration levels of pollutants like lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, mercury, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.
- Manufacturers must provide details of the constituents of the equipment and their components along with a declaration of conformance to the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) provisions in the product user documentation.
- The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will undertake random sampling of EEE available in the market and verify its compliance with the rules.
- If the product is found to be in violation of the rules, it will be removed from the market within a time period specified by the CPCB.
- For improper handling of e-waste, a penalty will be levied including the financial penalty.
- Under Schedule I of the rules, 22 electrical and electronic components or equipment or parts or spares are covered.
Impacts of E-Waste
- E-waste has many detrimental effects on both the Environment and Human Beings.
- Dumping of e-waste in landfills leads to leaching of toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the groundwater, thereby contaminating it.
- They also degrade the soil.
- In landfills, burning of e-waste will lead to air pollution.
- All these causes irreversible damage to human beings and other life forms.
- The findings of the study must be taken seriously by the government and proper rules for handling solar e-waste must be framed.
- Above all, care must be taken that the framed rules are being enforced effectively.
- But, if we have to go by the E-waste rules 2016 implementation and enforcement of rules seems to be the biggest impediment in managing e-waste in the country.
- It is time the government took steps to change the scenario and put efforts in proper management of e-waste.