E-waste: MeitY To Formulate Action Plan Around Circular Economy

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One ton of ore has an extractable reserve of about 1.4 gms of gold while a ton of mobile phone PCBs can produce about 1.5 kgs

NITI Aayog has entrusted the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) to formulate action plan for implementation of circular economy (CE) principles in the e-waste sector to expedite the focus on CE and ensure the transition of India from a linear to a circular economy.

“The Indian recovery strategies need to sustainably promote conditions to rebuild for people, environment, and economy. A transition towards CE will serve to reduce dependency on virgin materials and enhance resource productivity,” read the paper.

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It is to be noted here that The National Policy on Electronics (NPE) 2019 envisions to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities in the country for developing core components, including chipsets, and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally [Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) 2019].

To address this vision of ‘Make in India’, MeitY launched a ‘Product Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) to boost large scale financial incentives in domestic manufacturing of electronic components and semiconductor packaging. This policy package was launched at a suitable time when countries and companies are strengthening and reengineering the electronics value chain and production.

India is the third largest consumers of raw materials produced globally. If current economic trends persist then India’s material requirements are projected to be nearly 15 billion tonnes by 2030 and little above 25 billion tonnes by 2050. For India to fulfill its resource needs, it is imperative that we follow circular economy approach rather than the current linear economy principle of take-make-dispose.

Electronic and Electrical Equipments (EEE) manufacturing itself is dependent on high material consumption and uses metals like Iron, Copper, Silver, Gold, Aluminum, Manganese, Chromium and Zinc along with many rare earth elements. The rate of extraction of these abiotic resources for manufacturing in EEE and other sectors is significantly higher than the rate of their formation in nature.

Electronic and Electrical waste, collection and management of which remains a key challenge, is one of the rich sources of secondary raw materials and can contribute towards resource security and environmental sustainability. This necessitates the shift to a more circular approach for the sector.

According to the Global EWaste Monitor 2020, the world generated a striking 53.6 Mt of e-waste, an average of 7.3 kg per capita in 2019. The growing amount of e-waste is directly linked to higher consumption rates of EEE, short product life-cycles, rapid technological advancement and few repair options. Asia generated the highest quantity of e-waste in 2019 at 24.9 Mt, followed by the Americas (13.1 Mt) and Europe (12 Mt), while Africa and Oceania generated 2.9 Mt and 0.7 Mt, respectively.

As per Global E-Waste Monitor 2020 report, India generated 3.2 million tonnes of e-waste in 2019, ranking third after China (10.1 million tonnes) and the United States (6.9 million tonnes). India collected just 10 per cent of the electronic waste (e-waste) estimated to have been generated in the country 2018-19 and 3.5 per cent of that generated in 2017-18, said a recent report by the Central Pollution Control Board.

The FICCI Circular Economy Report, 2017 outlined that the business opportunity for extracting gold from e-waste is to the tune of $0.7 – $1 billion. Furthermore, 1 ton of ore has an extractable reserve of about 1.4 gms of gold while a ton of mobile phone PCBs can produce about 1.5 kgs. Global E-waste Monitor 2020 estimates that in 2019 as only 17.4 % of e-waste was collected and recycled leading to loss of nearly $47 billion in recoverable materials including gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high value
materials.

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