Towards Circular Economy in E-Waste

E-Waste means Electronic-Waste. It usually describes or includes old or discarded appliances. It also includes their parts, components and spares. There are mainly two broad categories. First is, Information technology and communication equipment and second is, Consumer electrical and electronics. Almost all used electronic items are e-waste like used cameras, batteries, photocopiers, printers, CRT monitors, key board, and house hold electronic machinery such as iron, heater oven, fridge, washing machine, air-conditioner, grinder and military electronic equipment’s as well.[1]

Electronics appliances and equipment seems to be very environmentally-friendly. E-waste consists of valuable and harmful substances. E-waste is not hazardous per se but the hazardous constituents present make it that are hazard to health and environment. Once they became waste, there are hidden dangers attach to them. So, simply burning of e-waste can have serious implications on human health and can cause pollution and contamination in the environment.[2] India is among 5th in producing electronic waste and it is necessary to manage them properly. Under the electronic waste management, the discarded electronics are used for reuse, resale or recycling. In developing countries, e-waste is processed by the informal or unorganized sector that affect their human health and cause pollution to the environment. So, there was a requirement in India that e-waste must be managed properly by the formal sector as to make it more environmentally friendly.  There are various e-waste policies for management. These help in the collection and recycling of e-waste.[3]


  1. There are some rules like Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989, Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998, Batteries (Management and Handling) Rules, 2001 and Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 that talk about the management of waste. But they did not talk amount e-waste specifically.[4]
  2. Later in 2011, for the first time E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 was passed by the government for electronic waste management that mandated only authorised dismantlers and recyclers to collect e-waste and was not sufficient. So, e-waste (Management) Rules, 2016 was passed that was enacted in 2017. It is a legal framework giving the producers to design the system to achieves the environmental objectives.[5]
  3. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had notified the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016. The rules are applicable to the Producers, Consumers, Recyclers, Manufacturers and Dealers. Micro and Small Industries are excluded from this. It is applicable to several products, components, spares and parts of electronic appliances and equipment.

Responsibilities of various stakeholders: –

  • Responsibilities of Manufacturer is to collect e-waste generated during the manufacturing of any electrical appliances and equipment and to ensure that no damage should be caused to the environment during transportation of e-waste.
  • The responsibilities of Producer are to collect e-waste generated from the product’s end of life and send it for recycling. He has to make ensure that these wastes are channelized to registered recycler. Producers who are having Extended Producer Responsibility Authorization are allowed to import the electrical equipment. He is also responsible for providing contact details such as address, telephone numbers to consumer so that they can directly give the used electrical equipment to the producers. He is also responsible for creating awareness among consumers in respect to hazardous improper recycling of e-waste.
  • The rules also placed the responsibilities on the Collection Centres to collect e-waste on behalf of producer or recycler and to make ensure that e-waste collected by them should be stored in a secured manner so to cause no damage to the environment. Dealer is also responsible for the same. In addition to that, he is also responsible for giving the consumer a bin or a secluded area to deposit e-waste and send it to the collection centre or recycler. 
  • The responsibilities of the refurbisher are to collect e-waste generated and then channelise it to authorised dismantler through its collection centre and no damage is caused to the environment during storage and transportation. Same is the responsibility of the consumer.
  • The responsibilities of Dismantlers are to obtain registration from the State Pollution Control Board and have to make sure that no damage is caused to the environment. They have to follow the guidelines published. The Recyclers responsibility is to ensure that the recycling process shall be in accordance with the guidelines given by the Central Pollution Control Board.[6]

Other provision: –

  • The procedure for grant of authorization is given under the Rules 13 and 14.  The rules introduce collection centres, collection point, take back system, etc. for collection of e-waste.
  • Deposit refund scheme allows the producer to charge an amount during the sale of the equipment and returns it to the consumer with interest when the used product is returned back to the producer.[7]
  • Liability for damages rule provides for the liability for damages made to the environment because of improper disposal of e-waste. In addition to that penalty will be charged if rules are violated.[8] The rules ensure management, transboundary movement disposal and resource recovery of hazardous waste and must be done in the environmentally friendly manner.[9]
  • The rules brought Extended Producer Responsibility along with targets.  The functions are the partnering with a group of producers to fulfil their regulatory requirements and for developing cooperation. Also, they have to interlinking the stakeholders with central and state government to municipalities and NGOs and will achieve transparency and accountability.[10]

o   Responsibilities are also placed on Urban Local Bodies to collect the orphan products and channelised them to authorized recyclers.[11] Central Pollution Control Board can conduct sampling of electrical equipment to verify the compliance of law on Restriction of Hazardous Substances and if the product does not comply, the producers have to take corrective measures to make it proper and withdraw the product within a reasonable period.

  • Local bodies which have population of one lakh or above have to establish solid waste processing facilities within the time period of two years and the towns that had population below lakh has three years for the same. In addition to that it is also made clear that old dump sites should be shut-down within five years. The rules on e-waste management have to be amended after every 16 years. Rules are made for the groups like hotels, airports and railway stations to ensure that the solid waste generated within their services must be treated well and recycled.[12]
  • Moreover, India’s first e-waste clinic has been set-up in the states of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh for processing and disposal of waste from both household and commercial units.
  • One of the policies made by the government is the web-based application on Integrated Waste Management System. This can track down the movement of hazardous waste. Through this application nearly 30,000 industries out of 43000 industries have been mapped that produces hazardous waste. It increased transparency in the working and successful in bringing the paperless office. Through this application, citizens can apply and get permissions for import and export of certain categories of waste, then they are used for reuse or recycling purposes. The application will be helpful in keeping a track of the number of certificates granted to establish or to operate. The same is with the applicants. They can also keep track on their application submitted and can check the status. It is also helpful in generating data on waste processing industrial units that is under construction regarding consent to establish, operate and permission. It also keeps data on wastes generated that are hazardous, municipal, plastic waste, electronic, etc.
  • Some of the Programmes by the government: –
  • Government started awareness program on Environmental Hazards of Electronic Waste. This was started by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. It basically aims at providing training and create awareness and knowledge regarding the minimising of the impact of electronic waste on the health and the environment.
  • One of the important programmes is to create awareness among people as to 2016 rules. This programme is known as Creation of Management Structure for Hazardous Substances. This will increase in the implementation of the rules 2016 by increasing knowledge among people.
  • Swachh Digital Bharat was also started by the government. It aims at raising the awareness between public as to recycling of electronic wastes by unorganised or informal sector. This also aims at educating them as to the other methods through which the e-waste can be properly disposed. Public are encouraged to participate in the programme so that they can give their e-waste directly to authorised recyclers.
  • A digital portal named Greene is also started by the government. It helps in spreading awareness and knowledge regarding e-waste through social media.[13]


  1. For e-waste, one of the conventions is the Basel Convention on the Control of the Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, 1992. In the starting, it did not mention e-waste but later on it was included in the year 2006. This convention ensures environmentally sound management of electronic waste, makes provisions for the prevention of illegal trafficking of electronic waste to developing countries and tries to build the capacity to manage e-waste. Ninth meeting of the Conference of parties of the Basel convention adopted the Bali declaration on Waste Management for Human Health and Livelihood which states that waste should be properly managed in an environmentally sound manner, otherwise it will affect the environment and human health. It also tries to enhance cooperation and coordination among three conventions that are Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. The fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention and of the Stockholm Convention adopted identical decisions to adopt the environmentally sound management of hazardous chemicals and wastes.[14]

2.      Another one of the main conventions is the Rotterdam Convention, 2004. The main object of this convention is that for hazardous chemicals and pesticides, there should share responsibility and co-operative efforts among the Parties in the international trade where is include hazardous chemicals. This should be done to protect human health and the environment. This is basically achieved by facilitating information exchange and by providing a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions. So, it helps in promotion of information exchange among parties on hazardous chemicals that are exported and imported.[15]


  • There is lack of awareness as to e-waste and costs of collecting electronic waste by the formal collection centres, thus reducing the voluntary returning of the waste by the household and consumers to formal sector. In addition to that, it is more convenient for the household to return their waste to the informal sector in comparison to formal sector. Also, the informal sector provides livelihoods to thousands of people specially to marginalized groups. But issues involved with the informal sector are that the child are engaged in e-waste activities in India without necessary protection. It also caused occupational health hazard due to the unscientific methods that leads to serious health effects to workers.[16]
  • Using of effective recycling technologies requires more capital expenditures which private entities do not think proper as there is uncertainty about the quantities of electronic waste. Secondly, not having enough information on the cost for those technologies becomes a major hurdle.
  • E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2016 have not been able to address the issues of lack of proper recycling facilities. Foreign technologies are expensive. Cherry picking is also one of the main challenges India is facing. The rules include IT waste and consumer electronic. But generally, it is considered that e-waste is the IT waste only.[17]
  • Consumer’s expectation to expect a monetary compensation for their e-waste is one of the challenges faced. Their calculation to waste cost is based on the functional value of the product that is much higher than the material value recovered. Inefficiency in the recycling processes is one of the issues that often leads to lower revenues from the materials and create larger financing gaps.[18]
  • Lack of proper infrastructure & mechanism in e-waste management is one of another problem. The e-waste in India is generated very high in comparison to the number of recycling and collection facilities present. For the collection, there is no effective tool and take-back system exist. Also, the foreign countries dumped the e-waste in India. It has become the destination of the major hazardous wastes such as mercury from the United States, defective tin plates from the Australia and the US, etc.
  • The EPR is not properly enforced. It is impossible for the company to set up collection centres. Customer care representatives also do not knowledge regarding their company’s responsibility. In addition to that, the producers have not sited awareness on e-waste management on their website. There is no provision or mechanism to verify that whether all firms have achieved their EPR targets and producer’s responsibility is not limited to waste collection, but also to make ensure that the waste reach to the authorised recycler. But sometimes the e-waste goes to unauthorised recycler and there is no mechanism to control it.
  • There is huge gap in rules. E-waste rules have been violated many a times on a regular basis but no mechanism to enforce the provision regarding the penalty. Incentives play a great role in promoting people to adopt the formal method of recycling. But the lack of incentives discouraged people in participating. Major hurdle in the implementation of the rules is that there is lack of awareness among people as to collection centres for the collection of used electronics products for recycling. There is not any information to E-waste on public websites. Even the basic E-waste Rules have not been uploaded and do not know how to fulfil their responsibility.[19]

Ø  Informal workers consist of marginalized backgrounds people and they carry out a range of activities, from collection to repair and dismantling. It uses dangerous recycling techniques severely affecting the health of workers. The non-existence of informal sector as a Stakeholder in the current regulation is one of the main challenges as this sector plays an important role in the management of this waste stream as they access waste from both individuals and business and aggregate the waste in huge volume.


  • The informal sector has been playing major role in collection of E-Waste. So, the government need to institute a platform to facilitates more interaction and integration among various stakeholders such as the informal sector workers, NGOs and registered recyclers. Domestic legal framework must be strengthened for unregulated e-waste imports. Vocational training programs should be there to provide skill to the unorganized sector employees. There is a need to create provision for the assessment. So, that a detailed assessment of the E-waste is prepared that includes characteristics, current disposal practices, etc.
  • There is a need to create more recycling facilities and to develop infrastructure for e-waste management. It is necessary to create Public-Private Partnership for electronic waste collection and recycling centres. Incentives should be provided to the producers for various programs. Government should launch a mass awareness programmes for the reuse and recycle of electronic products on using best practices.
  • In Norway, there is a take-back system according to which the producers are obliged to become the member of take-back company. And for the membership, they have to pay certain fee. This helps in the collection of funds for the treatment of e-waste. And then, take-back companies ensure the collection of e-waste from the market and then, it is determining how much electronics is brought into the market by the members of take-back companies. So, India should also adopt Norway’s Model or include such provision in the Rules by the amendment.
  • Instead of Rules for e-waste management, there should be separate legislation instead of handling it under the Environment Protection Act and a central authority must be there having experts from different fields possessing knowledge of electronic waste disposal and recycling techniques. E-waste imports should be banned. There should be restriction on all kinds of imports of electronic waste due to inadequate infrastructure in the country for recycling.
  • According to the e-waste regulations, producers have to provide information as to the impacts of e-waste and on the disposal practices and have to run awareness campaigns as well. But the overall awareness levels are very low according to the evidences. Stricter guidelines must be there and can improve the situation. Producers should be mandated to run campaigns through grassroots-level and research should be made by the government for effective techniques that will reduce the consumption level of electronic products.[20]
  • Environmentally sound recycling technology by the government by upgrading skills and creating understanding of safety regulatory and voluntary consensus standards. Voluntary consensus standard can help in bringing innovative solutions. Eco parks can also be set up to integrate these both. Central government can provide financial support for capital equipment as well as government can also provide land, subsidies in electricity, water and other utilities. There should be better monitoring regulations of illegal activities and to increase the transparency of e-waste flows.
  • Also, there is a need to change as to the type of questions asked from the producers. In the starting, producers were asked about the consumer awareness and now they are being asked about their EPR plan. But it will be more useful when the questions for producers should include their standards for recycling and if they will provide measurable and reliable data on e-waste that is collected. Rules can be made more effective if the producers provide audited figures for products that are collected through different mechanisms. The producers must need to demonstrate evidences as to the e-waste collection that is either being sent to a recycling facility or used in production processes. Also, the consumers should be asked to provide evidences as to their organizational practices in dealing with e-waste.[21]
  • The rules define the producer of an electronic product in narrower way and the producer will only be held responsible on accountability for environmentally friendly recycling of electronic waste. This shows that policy is more inclined towards treating symptoms than curing the system, the system that involves a complex interaction of multiple stakeholders. The norms as to producers should be strengthened and the definition should be made broader as to what are the producers and manufacturers and another one of the amendments needed to be made is to set recycling targets for producers. In the current policy regime, the producer is held responsible with targeted accountability and such intervene is very high. The amendments as to the policy is made that should increase an equitable participation of all stakeholders as it is necessary to narrow the loop as well as for the slowdown of the loop and it will benefit both the environment and its regenerative capacities.[22]
  • Necessary amendment has to be made so that the producer can join hands with consumers sustainable development by using their corporate social responsibility funding or complementing competencies. A policy instrument should change its framework from forcing a competitive war field to inspiring a collaborative playground for innovation and teamwork. This will enable a healthy environment as well as prosperous and sustainable economy.
  • One of the amendments that should be made legally is that government must create a provision for the research into the standards of hazardous waste management by the expertise and knowledgeable people. A provision as to legal researcher on e-waste management must be made. Because if there is special provision for research, it will be necessary to do research for the statutory fulfilment of the provision and research will be helpful in managing electronic waste more properly.
  • The rules must include the precautionary principle and polluter pay principle as to make it more stringent for the recyclers to work carefully in the fear of above principles.
    Provision should be made as to the tax incentives for scrap dealers. For the performance, reward should be granted like the penalty is imposed on non-compliance of rules.[23]
  • Recognition should be granted to the informal sector and legitimate waste collection by them. This will be helpful as the informal sector extract value from products not having high intrinsic material value. The current arrangement of state and central pollution board and state pollution board requires more powers, faster decision-making and accountability to the individual. An online portal is a substitute for bringing in transparency and accountability into the system. Waste generation movement should be tracked by an online system. Although the government has already created a web application but it is not effective. So, a properly online portal is needed. Such a system would fulfil long-term objectives and helps in reducing environmental pollution and will foster circular economy.


The use of electronic products over the last decade had raised e-waste. The management of e-waste is necessary to protect the environment and health of human beings and animals. For this government had passed a lot of rules and programmes. The main is the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016. Some of the challenges are informal sector e-waste practices, poor regulatory enforcement and low awareness. As a result, the severity of the environmental and health hazards depends very on the processes used. For that, it is necessary that awareness must be created among people to channelise their e-waste directly to the authorised recyclers to avoid problems. There are needs to made certain amendments in the rules 2016 as there are no guidelines given to consumer for the handling of electrical equipment and lengthy procedures are there in case of penalty in violation of rules 2016.

Some suggestions for the proper management of e-waste are: –

  • On the electronic equipment, the address, telephone number and e-mail of the producers and collection centres should be visible to the consumers clearly. Also, the manufacturing units have to try in using the least amount hazardous materials in the products as to create minimum pollution.
  • To reduce the e-waste, safe non-renewable materials that are safer and reused should be used. Awareness must be created so that consumers will buy products that are energy efficient. E-waste should not be mixed with other household and domestic wastes.
  • NGOs should also play a great role in electronic waste management and in creating awareness. It should be made mandatory for the producer and manufacturer to give details about the hazardous effects, contact details of manufacturer, recyclers, dismantler and guidelines to avoid e-waste to consumers with the electrical equipment. The unloading of electronic waste must be carried safely as to avoid any damage to health and environment. Like the unloading of Cathode Ray Tubes, LED, refrigerator and fluorescent can cause lot of adverse effects and should be carried out under supervision. The refurbishing or the recycling area should be properly covered and ventilated and have proper dust control equipment.
  • The informal sector has ability to collect e-waste is a unique strength and an advantage India has. So, it is suggested that law should acknowledges the existence of the informal sector.

[1] Legal Service India, E-Waste Management Rules 2016, by Manu,

[2] Babu, B.R., Parande, A.K. and Basha, C.A. (2007), “Electrical and electronic waste: a global environmental problem”, Waste Management and Research, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 307-318.

[3] BYJU’S, Electronic waste- E-waste Management Rules, 2016,

[4] Central Pollution Control Board, Rules,

[5] IAS Express, E-Waste Management in India – Challenges & Responses, by Santhosh Kumar, June 7, 2019,


[7] IAS Express, E-Waste Management in India – Challenges & Responses, by Santhosh Kumar, June 7, 2019,

[8] Drishti IAS, Increased Recycling of E-waste in India, March 05, 2020,

[9] Vikaspedia, Hazardous Waste Management Rules, 2016,

[10] Lexology, E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 – Highlights, by Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, April 4, 2017,

[11] Drishti IAS, Electronic Waste Management,

[12] BYJU’S, Electronic waste- E-waste Management Rules, 2016,

[13] Legal Service India, E-Waste Management Rules 2016, by Manu,

[14] UN Environment Programme, Ninth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention,

[15] European Commission, The objectives of the Rotterdam Convention,

[16] Research Gate, Public Policy for E-waste management in India, by Rama Mohana, September 2019, file:///C:/Users/HP/Downloads/e-waste_colloquium_Vikalpa%20(2).pdf

[17] Dr. B. J. Mohite ‗Issues and Strategies in Managing E-Waste in India’ IJRMBSS I I Vol. 1 I Issue 1 I Mar. 2013.

[18] Research Gate, Public Policy for E-waste management in India, by Rama Mohana, September 2019, file:///C:/Users/HP/Downloads/e-waste_colloquium_Vikalpa%20(2).pdf

[19] Vikalpa, E-Waste Management in India: Issues and Strategies, by Rama Mohana R. Turaga and Kalyan Bhaskar,

[20] Teri, E-Waste Management in India: Challenges and Opportunities, 06 Nov 2019, by Ms Akanksha Manish and Dr Paromita Chakraborty,

[21]Legal Service India, E-Waste Management Rules 2016, by Manu,

[22] Legal Service India, E Waste Management Issues Challenges and Proposed Solutions, by Rohit Sharma,

[23] Legal Service India, E-Waste Management Rules 2016, by Manu,

Author: Akshika Agarwal from Jaipur National University.

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