The amounts and types of emissions change every year. These changes are caused by changes in the nation’s economy, industrial activity, technology improvements, traffic, and by many other factors.
The Main pollutants are carbon monoxide (CO), lead (Pb), nitrogen dioxide(NO2), ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). There are also a large number of compounds which have been determined to be hazardous which are called air toxics.
Major manmade sources of Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) and Fine Particulate Matter (FPM) are as follows:
(i) Emission from coal based power station
(ii) Emission from oil fired furnace/boiler
(iii) Emission from stone crusher, hot mix plants, lime kilns, foundry
(iv) Hospital waste incinerator
(v) Emission from stationery DG sets/portable DG sets
(vi) Emission from diesel vehicles ( bus and trucks)
(vii) Emission from 2- stroke vehicles (2T oil used)
(viii) Resuspension of road dust
(ix) Burning of biomass/tyre, tube
(x) Emission from waste oil reprocessing industries.
Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981
Government of India enacted the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 to arrest the deterioration in the air quality. The act prescribes various functions for the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) at the apex level and State Pollution Control Boards at the state level. The main functions of the Central Pollution Control Board are as follows:
• To advise the Central Government on any matter concerning the improvement of the quality of the air and the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
• To plan and cause to be executed a nation-wide programme for the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
• To provide technical assistance and guidance to the State Pollution Control Board.
• To carry out and sponsor investigations and research related to prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
• To collect, compile and publish technical and statistical data related to air pollution; and
• To lay down standards for the quality of air and emission quantities. The main functions of the State Pollution Control Boards are as follows:
• To plan a comprehensive programme for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution and to secure the execution thereof;
• To advise the State Government on any matter concerning prevention, control and abatement of air pollution.
• To collect and disseminate information related to air pollution.
• To collaborate with Central Pollution Control Board in programme related to prevention, control and abatement of air pollution; and
• To inspect air pollution control areas, assess quality of air and to take steps for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution in such areas.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)
The ambient air quality objectives/standards are pre-requisite for developing programme for effective management of ambient air quality and to reduce the damaging effects of air pollution. The objectives of air quality standards are: –
• To indicate the levels of air quality necessary with an adequate margin of safety to protect the public health, vegetation and property.
• To assist in establishing priorities for abatement and control of pollutant level;
• To provide uniform yardstick for assessing air quality at national level; and
• To indicate the need and extent of monitoring programme.
Bio medical waste (BMW) may be defined as any solid, fluid or liquid waste material including its container and any other intermediate products which is generated during short term and long term care consisting of observational, diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative services for a person suffering or suspected to be suffering from disease or injury or during research pertaining to production & testing of biologicals during immunization of human beings. From total quantity of waste generated by health care activities almost 80 90% is general waste comparable to domestic waste. This comes from the administrative and housekeeping functions of Hospital and laboratories. The balance 10-20% of waste is considered hazardous and / or infectious. This lesson discusses about biomedical waste management.
Steps of Biomedical Waste Management
Location of containers: All containers having different coloured plastic bags
should be located at the point of generation of waste i.e. near diagnostic services areas.
Bags: It should be ensured that waste bags are filled upto only three fourth
capacity, tied securely and removed from the site of the generation regularly andtimely.
Certain categories of waste, which may need pre-treatment (decontamination disinfection) at the site of generation such as plastic and sharp materials, etc, should be removed from the site of generation only after treatment.
Storage of Waste
Within the hospital
Treatment and Disposal of Waste
Bio medical waste
Incineration: The specific requirements regarding norms of combustion
efficiency and emission level have been defined in BMW rules 1998.
Deep Burial: BMW rule 1998 mentions waste under category 1and 2 can be
accorded deep burial and this shall be an option available only in towns with
population less than five lakhs and in rural areas.The location of the deep burial
site will be authorized by the prescribed authority and it should be distant from residential areas and it should be ensured that no contamination occurs of any surface waste or ground water. The area should not be prone to flooding or erosion.
Autoclave and Microwave: Category 3, 4, 6 & 7 can be treated by these
Shredding: Plastic (IV bottles, syringes, catheter etc.), sharps (needles, blade,
glass) should be shredded after chemical treatment/ microwaving/ autoclaving.
Needle Destroyers: They can be used for disposal of needles directly without
Secured landfill: Incinerator ash, discarded medicines, cytoxic substances and solid chemical waste should be treated by this option.
Bio-medical Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1998 were notified by the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. In exercise of the powers conferred by Section 6, 8 and 25 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (29 of 1986), and in supersession of the Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998 and further amendments made thereof, the Central Government vide G.S.R. 343(E) dated 28 th March, 2016 published the Bio-medical Waste Management Rules, 2016. These rules apply to all persons who generate, collect, receive, store, transport, treat, dispose, or handle bio medical waste in any form including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, dispensaries, veterinary institutions, animal houses, pathological laboratories, blood banks, ayush hospitals, clinical establishments, research or educational institutions, health camps, medical or surgical camps, vaccination camps, blood donation camps, first aid rooms of schools, forensic laboratories and research labs.
The ‘prescribed authority’ for enforcement of the provisions of these rules in respect of all the health care facilities located in any State/Union Territory is the respective State Pollution Control Board (SPCB)/ Pollution Control Committee (PCC) and in case of health care establishments of the Armed Forces under the Ministry of Defence shall be the Director General, Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS). These rules stipulate duties of the Occupier or Operator of a Common Bio-medical Waste Treatment Facility as well as the identified authorities. According to these rules, every occupier or operator handling bio-medical waste, irrespective of the quantity is required to obtain authorisation from the respective prescribed authority i.e. State Pollution Control Board and Pollution Control Committee, as the case may be. These rules consist of four schedules and five forms.
India is the fifth largest producer of e-waste in the world and has discarded approximately 18 lakh metric tonnes of e-waste in 2016, which is 12 percent of the global e-waste, according to a United Nations University study, ‘The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017’. In fact by 2020, India’s e-waste from just old computers and mobile phones will rise by 500 percent and 1,800 percent respectively, as per a study by KPMG and ASSOCHAM. Experts say that e-waste is becoming an insurmountable challenge, given the country’s poor capacity in its safe disposal.
In 2016, the government introduced e-waste (management) rules to fix the responsibility of producers in collecting their end-of-cycle products and ensuring their proper disposal. It was referred as extended producers responsibility (EPR). The collection targets for producers were kept at 30 percent in the initial two years from 2016 to 2018 and 40 percent during 2018 to 2020. It also introduced the concept of producer responsibility organisation (PRO), which would take the responsibility of a group of producers for the collection and channelisation of e-waste to ensure its safe disposal.
But the industry has not been able to meet these targets. Majority of the e-waste collected in the country is managed by the informal sector. “The informal channels of recycling/ reuse of electronics such as repair shops, used product dealers, e-commerce portal vendors, etc. collect a significant proportion of discarded electronics for reuse and cannibalisation of parts and components… managing an unorganised sector to achieve such high targets may not be feasible,” noted the KPMG-ASSOCHAM study.
Subsequently, the ministry of environment and forest and climate change brought out draft e-waste rules in 2017, which diluted these targets — with 10 percent collection in 2017-18, 20 percent during 2018-19, 30 percent during 2019-20 and 40 percent during 2020-21.
Only time will tell if even these diluted targets would be met.
At present, there are some major issues hampering proper recycling of e-waste. It includes lack of awareness around safe disposal of electronic goods and appliances, poor industry outreach, and monitoring and enforcement of work by registered recyclers, where allegedly most pilferage happens — the waste is sent to informal channels for disposal wherein it is done in a hazardous manner.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) claims to have registered 178 units as dismantlers and recyclers with a total disposal capacity of 4,38,085.62 MTA (million tonne per annum). Experts, however, put the number of responsible recyclers, who follow safe processes for disposal, in a single digit number.
Moreover, the informal sector of waste recyclers is infamous for employing children. According to the UN University study, one million poor in India are engaged in informal recycling operations. “Most of these people have low literacy levels with little awareness of the dangers of the operations. Severe health impacts and environmental damage are widespread in India, due to the final step of the e-waste processing by the informal sector,” said the study.
However, the increasing amount of e-waste in the country has an inherent opportunity. The UN University report also termed e-waste as a ‘toxic mine’ and a ‘gold mine’, simultaneously. On one hand, it contains heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium and chemicals like CFC or flame retardants. On the other, it contains valuable materials such iron, copper aluminium and plastics. It also contains precious metals such as gold, silver, platinum and palladium.
“Up to 60 elements from the periodic table can be found in complex electronics, and many of them are recoverable, though it is not always economic to do so presently,” the study said. However, in the absence of formal ways of treatment and disposal, valuable materials are easily lost. According to the study, the estimated worth of valuable materials including precious metals in 2014 was 48 billion euros.
To safeguard people’s health and harness its potential, it is imperative to have policies which create formalised infrastructure for e-waste disposal, the study suggested.
“Govt has no capacity to deal with e-waste”
Interview with Pranshu Singhal, founder, Karo Sambhav Pvt Ltd
In India, e-waste is mostly processed in the informal sector. Can it be governed?
In most states e-waste is sold to junk dealers [kabadi wala] or disposed of in ‘take back’ schemes. As such, there are high chances of e-waste landing in the informal/illegal setup.
If a company or a retailer runs a buyback scheme — for example, old refrigerators — they will refurbish what can be, and sell the remaining to junk dealers.
The government or private companies (having more than 20 employees, and are referred as ‘bulk consumers’ under the e-waste management rules, 2016) auction their e-waste, instead of channelising it to an authorised recycler or refurbisher via the producers [device makers].
The government organisations are bound by general financial rules (GFR), hence they don’t have a choice but to auction. Even the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had put up a tender on their website for selling e-waste. The government’s internal regulations are contradictory.
Another problem with safe disposal of e-waste is the massive leakage at the recyclers’ end. Out of total 178 registered dismantlers and recyclers in India, majority of them lack basic facility. Most recyclers are refurbishes. They refurbish whatever they can and sell the remaining to junk dealers.
In most cases the bulk consumers sell e-waste through MSTC [a government owned e-auction platform provider]. It is bought by the recyclers and then sold in the informal sector, using MSTC certificate. Most of the defence e-waste [coming from the three services] is sold to junk dealers.
Why is there no enforcement?
There is no capacity in the government to deal with e-waste related matters. Look at the number of people dedicatedly working in the CPCB on e-waste, vis-a-vis to the magnitude of the problem we face. It is inadequate. States too are constrained in human resources. We hear from the waste aggregators and pickers that printed circuit boards (PCB) of phones and laptops are being smuggled to China.
What are the environmental costs of e-waste?
The people involved in disposal in the informal sector face serious health hazards. The estimates of people dependent on waste disposal vary from 4 lakh to 10 lakh. Moreover, burning of wire, PCBs cause major air pollutants.
How will the PRO model address these issues?
A PRO [producer responsibility organisation] is an independent neutral entity. We work with producers to ensure that e-waste is channelised formally and is disposed of in the best way possible. That is the job of the PRO.
The problem is that in India anyone can become a PRO. The 2016 rules do not provide a framework. The rules do not delineate the eligibility and responsibilities of the PRO. It doesn’t define what type of organisation constitutes a PRO. The rules allow even a recycler to become a PRO.
We have partnered with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) for doing research work in defining a framework and rules for the PRO. The whole idea of PRO is to have an organisation with deep-rooted competence to ensure that recyclers do what they are paid for.
Today a circular economy has been created, where recyclers sell e-waste to junk dealers and from there it is bought again.
In Europe, the municipalities create collection points where people drive to drop their e-waste. The PRO’s job there is to tie up with municipal body and collect it from the drop centres and carry it to the recyclers and ensure recycling.
Our problem is, how do we collect e-waste. The problem is that people don’t give it to the right channel. The willingness to give away at a price worthy of recycling is very less. Everyone wants refurbishment price. Recycling has a cost at the end of the day.
But the government claims to have several lakh tonnes of capacity with registered 178 recyclers and 4,38,085.62 MTA.
First of all, dismantlers are not recyclers. There is a design flaw in the 2016 rules. Why would you count the capacity of a dismantler and recycler together? Second, if recyclers claim to have a certain capacity for recycling, has anyone went and verified their claims. The reality is that there is no working capacity. Several recyclers claim capacity of 1 lakh MTA.
How can we ensure that the PROs don’t end up working like recyclers?
They may end up doing what recyclers are doing. It is imperative for the government to form rules and framework around it [PRO]. PRO is a new distinct entity. Today my biggest bottleneck is that I am picking up so much of waste from the market, but I have very few recyclers to give it to. This new entity [PRO] is bringing fresh people in the domain.
What about consumer electronics?
With IT e-waste, recyclers can earn something. But in consumer appliances, there is nothing valuable. The recycling has a cost. In most cases the value of recycling ends up in negative.
The logistics cost is too high, especially the cost of covering large distances. In India most of the plants are not geared for recycling consumer electronics.
Electronic waste is no more a problem of the rich and elite in India but a cause of serious concern for the environment. The toxic waste, generated from thousands of tonnes of discarded electronic devices across the country, plays havoc with public health with nearly five lakh child labourers being exposed to the dangerous cocktail of heavy metals, chemicals, mercury and other carcinogens. Though India is the fifth largest producer of e-waste in the world, its record of recycling is very poor. Less than 2% of the electronic waste is recycled through an institutional process. With rapid penetration of mobiles, computers and other consumer electronic devices, e-waste is growing 30% annually and is set to explode beyond manageable means if urgent steps are not taken to regulate recycling sector. Computer devices account for nearly 70% of e-waste. Unfortunately, India is yet to put in place a widespread and regulated institutional process to recycle, reuse and dispose the e-waste safely. There is a need to promote public awareness about this key environmental aspect and involve the informal sector in this humungous task. The global e-waste generation, which stood at 41.80 million metric tonnes in 2014, is likely to touch 49.80 mmt by 2018. While countries like Norway, Sweden and Finland recycled almost 50% of their e-waste in 2014, India’s record has been pathetic with less than 2% being recycled. What is more alarming is the employment of child labour, without any protective gear, in the collection of the discarded electronic devices, exposing them to the toxic fumes.
In India, the collection of discarded mobiles and computers is done entirely by the unorganised sector, posing severe public health hazards. According to a study by the industry body Assocham, about 80% of the e-waste workers suffer from respiratory ailments due to improper safeguards. They also run the risk of damage to lungs, liver and kidneys. The Environment Ministry had notified e-waste management rules last year, introducing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) provision that stipulates for collection 30% waste in first two years and up to 70% in seven years. However, a majority of the brands operating in India do not have the wherewithal to handle waste that is generated by their goods at end of life stage. Despite having a ‘take back’ system in place, it is seldom implemented on the ground as the manufacturers do not provide adequate information on their websites. One of the major challenges facing the e-waste management sector in India is the mechanism for inclusion of thousands of producers and importers under the ambit of regulation. India must take a cue from countries like Norway where e-waste ‘take back’ system is being implemented quite effectively for more than 12 years now.
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