International Journal of Law and Legal Jurisprudence Studies



Dr. T.K.Bandyopadhyay[1], Gargi Rajvanshi[2], Ishan Kanungo[3]

E-waste means discarded or obsolete or out of use electronic products. The electronic industry has been growing in rapid pace due to dynamic nature of technology in electronic and communication sector. The consumers and user are shifting from low capacity, less featured products to high capacity and more featured products. Hence lot of e-waste has been generated in the form of discarded computer, laptop, mobile phones and other communication devices. The current global production of e-waste is more than 20 million tones. E-waste contains both precious metals like copper, platinum as well as heavy and toxic metals like lead, cadmium etc.  A lot of polymers also remain in e-waste. Due to the presence of precious metal, people recycle e-waste to extract those. Lot of people import e-waste from developed countries like USA, Europe which are the major producer of e-waste today. Recycling as well as use and dumping of e-waste cause severe environment health hazard.  People recycle or dump those in open air which causes pollution to water, soil and air. Smoke generated due to burning of e-wastes and produces lead fumes, di-oxine, furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons etc.   The chemical compositions of e-waste have been changing over the year as per need of industry. The toxic fumes generated from e-waste effect human health with the minute of human awareness towards the adverse effect of e-waste.  Hence, there is a need to know that the toxic and hazardous elements are present ine-waste and their effect can be perceived on soil, water, and air as well as food chain which ultimately influence the total ecosystem. Creation of enormous e-waste data by day and its probable adverse affect on environment gives an urgent call for regulation of e-waste. This paper presents issues pertaining to change in composition of e-waste with evolution of new technologies and its effect on environment and human health and suggest some framework for e-waste management and regulation.

Keywords: e-waste, environment, health, regulation, composition




E-Waste or Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) are the terms used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded appliances using electricity.[4] It includes computers, consumer electronics, fridges etc. which have been disposed of by their original users.  Thus E-waste is any scrap created by discarded electronic devices and components as well as substances involved in their manufacture or use. The disposal of electronics is a growing problem because electronic equipment frequently contains hazardous substances. In a personal computer, for example, there may be lead in the cathode ray tube (CRT) and soldering compound, mercury in switches and housing, and cobalt in steel components, among other equally toxic substances. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than four million tons of e-waste goes to U.S. landfills each year.[5] As per Hazardous Waste (Management Handling & Trans-boundary Movement) Rules, 2008[6] Schedule-1V, the components of waste electrical and electronic assembles comprise of accumulators and other batteries like mercury-switches, activated glass culets from cathode-ray tubes and other activated glass and PCB-capacitors, or any other component contaminated with Schedule-2 constituents (e.g. cadmium, mercury, lead, polychlorinated, biphenyl) to the extent that they exhibit hazard characteristics indicated in Part-C of this schedule. Around the world, a lot many initiatives are being taken to address the issue of e-waste, by promoting the re-use of electronic devices (e-cycling) and mandating that safer alternatives to hazardous substances should be used in their manufacturing whenever possible.


Following can be recognized as the major sources of e-waste

  • IT and Telecom Equipment
  • Large Household Appliances
  • Small Household Appliances
  • Consumer and Lighting Equipment
  • Electrical and Electronic Tools
  • Toys, Leisure and Sports Equipment
  • Medical Devices
  • Monitoring and Control Instruments


E-waste is partly hazardous: E-waste contains different substances, some of which are toxic, and can pose serious risks and create severe pollution upon wrong handling and disposal.

E-waste is partly valuable: for instance, End of life motherboards may be sold for more than 1000US$ per ton to recyclers who recover metals.

E-waste is increasing at alarming rates: Due to the evolution of E-technologies high rates of obsolescence are occurring. In a combination with the explosion of new applications, E-waste produces high volumes of waste which are rapidly increasing at global level.


Wastes are roughly classified under three categories; non-industrial, industrial, and hazardous wastes. E-wastes are recognized as “electrical and electronic wastes” among non-industrial wastes.

The development of the process of E-waste can be identified as follows:

(A) International Scenario:

  • In USA, it accounts 1% to 3% of the total municipal waste generation.[7]
  • In European Union (EU), e-waste is growing three times faster than average annual municipal solid waste generation. A recent source estimates that total amount of e-waste generation in EU ranges from 5 to 7 million tonnes per annum or about 14 to 15 kg per capita and is expected to grow at a rate of 3% to 5% per year. [8]
  • In developed countries, currently it is equal to 1% of total solid waste generation and has grown to 2% by 2010.[9]

(B) Indian Scenario:

The growth rate of discarded electronic waste is high in India since it has emerged as an information technology giant and due to modernization of lifestyle. We are using electronic products for last 60 years however, there is no proper disposal system followed in our country. This has led to enormous amount of e-waste. There is an urgent need to find proper disposal and recycling technique so that environmental pollution and health hazards can be reduced. Following figures projects the increasing demand for electronics hardware products in India.

  • The total e-waste generated in India amounts to 1,46,180 tons per year.[10]
  • This has exceeded to 8,00,000 tonnes by 2012.[11]
  • Sixty-five cities in India generate more than 60% of the total e-waste generated in India.[12]
  • Ten states generate 70% of the total e-waste generated in India includes Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.[13]
  • Among top ten cities generating e-waste, Mumbai ranks first followed by Delhi, Bangalore,   Chennai,    Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Surat and Nagpur.[14]
  • In India, increased demand for the key products like PC, TV, and Telephones in last 5-10 year has been responsible for the increasing amount of e-waste generation.[15]


Following can be recognized as principal provisions regulating e-waste in India:

Factories Act 1948 (amended till present): Several contaminants arising out from manufacturing or recycling of electronic components are listed in this Act.[16]

Environmental Protection Rules 1986 (amended till present): There is no direct standard, which can address pollutants from an electronics manufacturing or recycling industries. However certain PCB units fall in electroplating category and are therefore required to be abide by the effluent disposal norms as given in schedule 1 of this rules.[17]

Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 1989 (Amended in 2003):

  • Schedule 2 of this act can be applied for the disposal of e-waste.
  • Schedule 3 entry at SI. No. A1180: Regulated waste electrical and electronic assemblies (For EXIM i.e. Export Import)
  • Schedule 3 entry at SI. No. B1110: Electrical and electronic assemblies not valid for direct re-use but for recycling (For EXIM)[18]

Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Trans-boundary Movement) Rules 2008:

  • Part-A of Schedule III (Basal No. 1180) consists of list of e-waste applicable for import with prior informed consent.
  • Part B of schedule III (Basal No. 1110) deals with list of e-waste applicable for import and export not requiring prior informed consent.[19]

Basel Convention: The Basel convention on the control of trans-boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, adopted by a conference in Basal (Switzerland) in 1989, was developed under UNEP.[20]

E-waste (Management and Handling) Rule 2011[21]: These rules will apply to every producer, consumers or bulk consumers involved in the manufacture, sale, and purchase and processing of electrical and electronic equipment or component as specified in the schedule.  The producer will be responsible for entire life cycle of E-waste. The principle adopted in this rule is based on “Extended Producer Responsibility”.  Extended Producer Responsibility can be considered as strategy to control and manage e-waste.[22]  The above rule is not clear with respect to liability of informal/un-organized sector people.[23] The rule has also not restricted import and export of E-waste.

Guidelines: Guidelines for environmentally sound management for e-waste are given by CPCB.[24]




Supreme Court in a Writ Petition (Civil) No. 657 of 1995 filed by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural Resource Policy Vs Union of India[25] and Others, inter-alia, directed the CentralGovernment to constitute a Monitoring Committee to oversee timelycompliance of its directions given in different regulatory mechanism to control e-waste and its environmental effects. Keeping in Supreme Court guidelines, many states like Delhi, Maharashtra, and Karnataka etc. has notified a set of hazardous waste laws to effect the guidelines of Supreme Court. But the recent CAG report found that over 75% of State bodies are not implementing those laws and regulations. Apart from it, it has been seen that in last decade the consumerism has rose to its height in India; hence a mass escalation of wastage of electronic goods and merchandise is making it difficult to manage the hazardous effect of electronic waste in India. A report has mentioned that around 8 tonnes of e-waste was generated in India by the end of 2012 and hence this e-waste and lack of proper management of this e-waste is likely to cause significant health and environmental hazards associated with it.[26] As e-waste is growing with 10% of annual growth hence it marks the government to initiate urgent regulation to control hazardous health and environmental effect of e-waste.[27]

Apart from this, loopholes in Indian legislations regarding import policies is also one of the reason that India is facing the problem of mounting e-waste and its pollutant effects to health and environment at large. In an analysis of import export policies of India, it can be said that in an attempt of standing at par with global market and development, the government has liberalized the import of e-waste in India. As for example, India’s EXIM (export-import) policy allows import of the secondhand computers not more than 10 years old, besides letting computers in as donations. The Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act, 1992 provides for import of computers and peripherals from zones which have been set up primarily for export, i.e. EOU (Export Oriented Units), EPZ (Exports Processing Zones), STP (Software Technology Parks) and EHTP (Electronics Hardware Technology Parks) at a zero custom duty. Inspire of making them use less and putting them to disposal under e-waste, these computers can be donated to the recognized non-commercial educational institutions, registered charitable hospitals, public libraries, public-funded research and development establishments and organizations of the Government of India and State/ UT Governments.[28] Hence all these critical crisis calls for an urgent need of implying the realistic approach to solve the problem of e-waste in India.


Apart from the legislative framework available in India for the management and control of hazardous effects of e-waste in India, following solutions can be implanted to promote a pragmatic solution to the problem of e-waste in India:

(a)Land filling[29]:

It is one of the most widely used methods for disposal of e-waste. In land filling, trenches are made on the flat surfaces. Soil is excavated from the trenches and waste material is buried in it, which is covered by a thick layer of soil. Modern techniques like secure landfill are provided with some facilities like, impervious liner made up of plastic or clay, leachate collection basin that collects and transfer the leachate to wastewater treatment plant. The degradation processes in landfills are very complicated and run over a wide time span.

The environmental risks from land filling of e-waste cannot be neglected because the conditions in a landfill site are different from a native soil, particularly concerning the leaching behavior of metals. Mercury, cadmium and lead are the most toxic leachates. Lead has been found to leach from broken lead-containing glass, such as the cone glass of cathode ray tubes from TVs and monitors. Cadmium also leaches into soil and ground water. In addition, it is known that cadmium and mercury are emitted in diffuse form or via the landfill gas combustion plant. Landfills are also prone to uncontrolled fires, which can release toxic fumes. Therefore, landfilling does not appear to be an environmentally sound treatment method for substances, which are volatile and not biologically degradable (Cd, Hg,), persistent (Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls) or with unknown behavior in a landfill site (brominates flame retardants).[30] As landfilling does not appear to be an environmentally sound management process for disposal of perilous substances,[31] hence landfills are regulated at various international and national levels. In USA, landfills are regulated by the state’s environmental agency that establishes minimum guidelines under the standards set by United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).[32] To control the effects of landfilling, EPA has introduced, enacted and operate the Landfill Methane Outreach Program.[33] European Union has also adopted to the “EU Landfill Directives[34]” in year 1999 to control and regulate the disposal of inert, hazardous, non-hazardous or any other waste at an appropriate landfill site only. English law has also been adapted to regulated disposal of wastes through the Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002. In India, it is the Environment Protection Act, 1986 only which authorizes the central government to take all measures estimated necessary or expedient to protect the quality of environment and prevent any type of pollution. In the light of such compliance, the Government of India has framed the Hazardous Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1989 and Hazardous Waste (Storage Export and Import) Rules, 1989 to regulate the disposal of hazardous waste in India. These rules make it mandatory for any organization to seek the permission of the local state pollution control board for grant of authorization for carrying hazardous substances in the form of collection, reception, treatment, transport, storage and disposal of such wastes.[35]

(b) Incineration:

It is a controlled and complete combustion process, in which the waste material is burned in specially designed incinerators at a high temperature (900-1000oC). Advantage of incineration of e-waste is the reduction of waste volume and the Utilization of the energy content of combustible materials. Some plants remove iron from the slag for recycling. By incineration some environmentally hazardous organic substances are converted into less hazardous compounds. Disadvantage of incineration are the emission to air of substances escaping flue gas cleaning and the large amount of residues from gas cleaning and combustion. e-waste incineration plants contribute significantly to the annual emissions of cadmium and mercury. In addition, heavy metals not emitted into the atmosphere are transferred to slag and exhaust gas residues and can reenter the environment on disposal. Therefore, e-waste incineration will increase these emissions, if no reduction measures like removal of heavy metals are taken.[36] In a study conducted by Stanford University on “Kettlemen City: Sitting a Hazardous Waste Incinerator[37]”, the author was of the opinion that sitting of toxic waste incineration even four miles outside the Kettlement City will useful to some extent in diminishing the perilous effects of waste disposal but that emission may result in the ailing effect to small farm workers community in the California Central Valley. Hence it was suggested that there should be the balancing of harms in the disposal of wastes.

(c)Recycling of e-waste:

Monitors & CRT, keyboards, laptops, modems, telephone boards, hard drives, floppy drives, Compact disks, mobiles, fax machines, printers, CPUs, memory chips, connecting wires & cables can be recycled. Recycling involves dismantling i.e. removal of different parts of e-waste containing dangerous substances like PCB, Hg, separation of plastic, removal of CRT, segregation of ferrous and non-ferrous metals and printed circuit boards. Recyclers use strong acids to remove precious metals such as copper, lead, gold. The value of recycling from the element could be much higher if appropriate technologies are used. The recyclers are working in poorly–ventilated enclosed areas without mask and technical expertise results in exposure to dangerous and slow poisoning chemicals.

The existing dumping grounds in India are full and overflowing beyond capacity and it is difficult to get new dumping sites due to scarcity of land. For disposing wastes under landfilling, it has to be kept in mind that landfill cannot be constructed within 200 meters of any lake or pond, 100 meters of river, within 100 years of flood plain, 200 meters of highways and in some restrictions to habitation, public parks, critical habitat area, wetlands, ground water table, airports, water supply well, coastal regulation zone, unstable zone, buffer zone, and other areas decides by the designers.[38] Therefore recycling is the best possible option for the management of e-waste.[39]

(d) Re-use:

It constitutes direct second hand use or use after slight modifications to the original functioning equipment. It is commonly used for electronic equipment like computers, cell phones etc. Inkjet cartridge is also used after refilling. This method also reduces the volume of e-waste generation. We can use above mentioned methods for treatment and disposal of e-waste. The better option is to avoid its generation. To achieve this, buy back of old electronic equipment shall be made mandatory. Large companies should purchase the used equipment back from the customers and ensure proper treatment and disposal of e-waste by authorized processes. This can considerably reduce the volume of e- waste generation.[40]


Figure 1: Extended Producer Responsibility

Figure-1 relates to extended producer responsibility which is an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility for a product is extended to the post consumer stage of the products life cycle, including its final disposal. Encouraging “buy-back” policy in big companies where a consumer returns old electronic goods and a discount is given on new products that are purchased. The old product received can be dismantled and the various parts can be recycled or reused with slight modifications.[41]

To enhance the efficacy of the present scenario that deals with e-waste management few aspects must be included which are as follows:

  • Increasing the ambit of the term “electronic waste”. This would cover all such goods which go unnoticed in case of a turbulence during the proper management of e-waste disposal
  • The liability should rest on the manufacturer till the effective disposal of its goods.
  • Encouraging of “buy-back” schemes by big companies. In such schemes the consumers return their old electronic goods and a discount is given on the new product that he buys. Incentivizing such an act of the consumer ensures steady flow of secondary old goods at the recycling firm’s end. These recycling units dismantle the old goods and recycle or reuse the useful parts.
  • A developed country approaches a developing country for land filling. The latter with a low economy provides for the land in lieu of a cash or kind. A developed country comes to a LDC or developing country because of an advantage that is not found in its home market.  Environment is risked if proper disposal is not done in such LDCs. Hazardous substance which don’t get recycled pollute the environment. An effective mechanism to cater to the needs of both is ought to be made.
  • Periodical review and assessment of the laws pertaining to e-waste management must be carried on by the government.
  • Establishment of recycling firms, e-waste collection units. Usage of sound technologies and development of adequate infrastructure.
  • End-of-life management must be taken into consideration when a new electronic good is manufactured. This would indicate that   product is in the end of its useful lifetime and a vendor will no longer be marketing, selling, or sustaining a particular product and may also be limiting or ending support for the product.

Last but not the least as has been suggested by a case study conducted by Flora Y. F. Chu and Others[42] on “The Campo Indian Landfill[43]” that Indian legal sphere should have separate regulatory and controlling body which can not only control and regulate the issues of e-waste management but also may consolidate the law on e-waste management while maintaining the highlights of interplay of science and development with the protection towards environmental challenges posed under the era of information and technology.


State Of Environment Report for Maharashtra 2007, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.

Perspectives of Electronic Waste Management Presentation by: Dr.D.B.Boralkar Member Secretary, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board September 22, 2005.

Report on Assessment of Electronic Wastes in Mumbai-Pune Area, MPCB (2007),

[1] Assistant Professor, Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, IIT-Kharagpur, India -721302: Contact Author: e.mail:

[2] Assistant Professor, National Law Institute University, Bhopal PhD Research Scholar, Rajiv Gandhi School of Intellectual Property Law, IIT-Kharagpur, India -721302

[3] Final Year B.B.A, LL.B (H) Course, KIIT Law School, KIIT University, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

[4](June 17th, 2012)

[5]See Fact Sheet: Management of Electronic Waste in The United States, EPA 530, April 2008 (Jun 29th, 2013)

[6]Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Trans-boundary Movement) Rules 2008, Chapter I, Section 3

[7]E-Waste generation Scenario, (June 17th, 2012)

[8]E-waste, supra note 5.

[9] Ibid

[10]E-Waste- Indian Scenario & the Need for Environmentally Sound Management, (June 17th, 2012)

[11] Govindasamy Agoramoorthy & Chiranjib Chakraborty, Environment: Control electric waste in India, (June17th, 2012)

[12] Ibid

[13]Ministry of environment and forests, Central Pollution Control Board, Guidelines for environmentally sound management of e-waste,(June 17th, 2012)

[14]Nisha Nambiar, Fresh Rules for managing electronic-waste, (June 17th, 2012)

[15] Sanjeev Jain & Kapil Mohan Garg, Managing E-Waste in India: Adoption of Need Based Solutions, (June 17th, 2012)

[16] Factories Act, 1948

[17] SCHEDULE – I Standards for emissions or discharge of environmental pollutants, (June 17th, 2012)

[18] Ministry of environment and forests, supra note 8

[19] (June 17th, 2012)

[20] Trans- Boundary Transfer of Hazardous wastes: Issues and Options accessed on 17th June, 2012.

[21] Ministry of Environment and Forest Notification, New Delhi 12th May, 2011

[22] OECD (2001). Extended Producer Responsibility: A Guidance Manual for Governments. Paris, France.

[23](June 17th, 2012)

[24] Chapter 5, Guidelines for environmentally sound management for e-waste, Pg-21, (June 17th, 2012)

[25] AIR 2003, SC

[26] Ravi Agarwal, ‘A Policy? Rubbish’, The Hindustan Times, 4 May 2010

[27] Sandeep Joshi, ‘Growing E-Waste Causing Concern’, The Hindu, 28 February, 2009.

[28] Amiti Sen, ‘India vows to fight liberal import of used goods’, The Economic Times, New Delhi, 16 August 2010.

[29] According to Draft of Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1999 published under the notification of the Government of India in the Ministry of Environment and Forests number S.O. 783(E), (dated 27th September, 1999) Gazette, Word “Landfilling is defined as “landfilling” means disposal of residual solid wastes on land in a facility designed with protective measures against pollution of ground water, surface water and air fugitive dust, wind-blown litter, bad odour, fire hazard, bird menace, pests or rodents, greenhouse gas emissions, slope instability and erosion; (November 3, 2012)

[30]E-waste treatment and Disposal method, (May 10, 2013)

[31] For Example Substances like which are volatile and not biologically degradable (Cd, Hg,), persistent (Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls) or with unknown behavior in a landfill site (brominates flame retardants)

[32] See (October  26th 2012)

[33] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP) is a voluntary assistance program that helps to reduce methane emissions from landfills by encouraging the recovery and beneficial use of landfill gas (LFG) as an energy resource. LFG contains methane, a potent greenhouse gas that can be captured and used to fuel power plants, manufacturing facilities, vehicles, homes, and more. By joining LMOP, companies, state agencies, organizations, landfills, and communities gain access to a vast network of industry experts and practitioners, as well as to various technical and marketing resources that can help with LFG energy project development. Available on (last accessed on October 26th 2012)

[34] See EU Landfill Directives, 1999. Available on (last accessed on October 26th 2012)

[35] See (last accessed on November 3, 2012)

[36] E-waste Treatment, supra note 18

[37](October 26th, 2012)

[38] A Chapter of Landfills, Available on (last accessed on November 3, 2012)

[39] Id. at 18.

[40] E-waste Treatment, supra note 18

[41] Kurian Joseph, Electronic Waste in India: Issues and Strategies, Extended producers responsibility.

[42] Flora Y. F. Chu, Lecturer; Barton H. (“Buzz”) Thompson, Jr., Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law

[43] Case Number: SLS No. 98-035, with Stanford University, California, USA. (November 3, 2012)

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