"Hazardous waste" means any waste which by reason of any of its physical, chemical, reactive, toxic, flammable, explosive or corrosive characteristics causes danger or is likely to cause danger to health or environment, whether alone or when in contact with other wastes or substances.

Hazardous substances or contaminants in the municipal waste stream:
  • Components of electronic waste such as cadmium and lead and PVC sheathing on cables.
  • Household chemicals such as bleach, oven cleaners, mineral turpentine and paints.
  • Products incorporating nano particules (nano sized ingredients) such as zinc and titanium oxide in sunscreen and cosmetics and skin gel containing nano silver. 
  • Hazardous substances in the commercial and industrial waste stream (e.g., chemicals, heavy metals).
  • Hazardous materials in the construction and demolition waste stream (e.g. Asbestos).
  • Outside those waste streams bi-solids, particularly sewage sludge, may be contaminated by a range of household chemicals, heavy metals and pharmaceuticals'.
Improper disposal of hazardous waste may pose serious risks to human health and the environment. For example, waste that is disposed of improperly may leach into the groundwater, where they may cause long term contamination of a region's water supply. This may have particularly serious consequences in agricultural communities, which depend on groundwater aquifers for irrigation and personal consumption.
Contamination due to improper disposal of hazardous waste can also be harmful in urban areas, especially slums, if untreated waste flows into open drains and enters water distribution systems. At the same time, exposure to hazardous waste through consumption, inhalation of polluted air, or through direct contact with skin may cause many acute and long term health risks. These threats vary greatly depending on the type of hazardous waste at issue, but may include carcinogenesis, reproductive abnormalities, and central nervous system disorders.
Issues in hazardous waste management
There is a fairly comprehensive legal and regulatory framework in place in India to address its hazardous waste management. Some of these challenges include a lack of financial resources, a shortage of staff, a lack of standardized protocols, and a lack of legal authority. In light of the various human health and environmental issues associated with improper hazardous waste disposal, it is critical that India overcome these challenges and ensure its hazardous waste is properly managed.
Other Issues
  • According to the UNEP Report, much of the 40 million tonnes of electronic waste produced around the world like old smartphones, TVs, laptops and obsolete kitchen appliances etc. finds its way illegally to Asia and Africa every year.
  • Close to 90 per cent of the world's electronic waste - worth nearly $19 billion - is illegally traded or dumped each year, to destinations half way across the world. 
  • While the European Union the U.S. and Japan are the primary origins of e-waste shipments, China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan are the main destinations. In Africa, Ghana and Nigeria are the biggest recipients of e-waste. Illegal trade is driven by the relatively low costs of shipment and the high costs of treatment in the developed countries. Quoting an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, the UNEP report says that exporting e-waste to Asia worked out 10 times cheaper than processing it in within these countries.
  • The vast majority of illegal e-waste ends up in landfills, incinerators, and in ill-equipped recycling facilities. The waste is dumped in areas where local residents and workers disassemble the units and collect whatever is of value. What is not reusable is simply dumped as waste, creating immense problems and leading to what has been described as a 'toxic time bomb.
  •  While Europe and North America are by far the largest producers of e-waste, Asia's cities are fast catching up as consumers of electronic goods and as generators of e-waste.

Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016

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  • The rules make state governments responsible for environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes and mandate them to set up industrial space or sheds for recycling, pre-processing and other utilization of hazardous or other waste.
  • Producers and consumers of electronic goods have a responsibility under the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011 to ensure proper disposal, but progress has been slow for various reasons. Now the E-waste (Management) Rules 2016 provide several options to manufacturers,  such as collection of a refundable deposit and paying for the return of goods to meet the requirements of law.
  • The onus on garbage management would continue to be the responsibility of municipal bodies, they would be allowed to charge user fees and levy spot fines for littering and non-segregation.
  • Making it incumbent on a wide variety of groups- hotels, residential colonies, large bulk producers of consumer goods, ports, railway stations, airports and pilgrimage spots  to ensure that the solid waste generated in their facilities are treated and recycled.
  • The new rules distinguish hazardous waste from others such as waste tyre, paper waste, metal scrap and used electronic items
  • India has banned the import of solid plastic waste, including PET bottles, as part of new hazardous waste management rules that aims to prevent the country from becoming a dumping yard for industrialized nations.
  • Procedure has been simplified to merge all the approvals as a single window clearance for setting up of hazardous waste disposal facility and import of other wastes.
  • The state authorities have also been asked to register the workers involved in recycling, undertake industrial skill development activities and ensure safety and health of workers. 
  • States must also submit annual reports regarding implementation of these rules to environment ministry. This is because workers employed in unscientific hazardous waste management practices suffer from neurological disorders, skin diseases, genetic defects and cancer.
  • The rules also mandates state pollution control boards to prepare an annual inventory of the waste generated, recycled, recovered, utilised including co-processed, waste re-exported and waste disposed.
  • The following items have been prohibited for import:
a)  Waste edible fats and oil of animals, or vegetable origin; 
b)  Household waste;
c)  Critical Care Medical equipment
d)  Tyres for direct re-use purpose
e)  Solid Plastic wastes including Pet bottles
f)  Waste electrical and electronic assemblies scrap
g)  Other chemical wastes especially in solvent form.
  • Extended Producers' Responsibility (EPR): The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has notified e-waste management rules, 2016, in which producers are for the first time covered under extended producers' responsibility (EPR).The rules prescribe a waste collection target of 30 per cent waste generated under EPR for the first two years, progressively going up to 70 per cent in the seventh year of the rule.
  • The rules prescribe stringent financial penalties for non-compliance. However, the study said the unorganised sector in India is estimated to handle around 95 per cent of the e-waste produced in the country. Given the huge user base and vast reach of telecom in India, it is practically difficult and expensive for the handset manufacturers to achieve the targets prescribed in the rules from first year.
  • The Environment Ministry has tightened rules by putting the onus on manufacturers, dealers, retailers and refurbishers of electronic goods to ensure that electronic or e-waste goods are collected and "scientifically" recycled.
  • Experts welcomed ban on import of plastic waste, but cautioned about allowing used electronic items as e-waste is already a huge problem in India. As per official estimates, everyday, 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is generated in India of which only 9,000 tonnes is collected and processed. 
  • The new hazardous waste rules will ensure resource recovery and disposal of hazardous waste in an environmentally sound manner. The rules are environment and industry-friendly. The provisions of the new rules are in line with this government's priority for Ease of Doing Business and Make in India, but with responsible concerns for sustainable development.
  • Hazardous materials, including heavy metals, are dumped in garbage yards, polluting soil and water. The new rules have positive measures in this regard: they classify mercury-laden light bulbs as e-waste, which will keep them out of municipal landfills. 
  • PET bottles are used by the fibre industry in India and import of plastic waste (PET bottles) is preferred because that ensures bulk availability. But India itself has a huge amount of plastic waste including PET bottles that remain uncollected and harm environment. These rules will ensure their collection and reduce load on our pollution. Industrialised countries like the US also do not allow importing plastic waste.
  •  First time include a separate category of items like tyre, metal scrap, paper and certain electronic goods that can be recycled and reused.
  • New rules will ensure "resource recovery" and disposal of hazardous waste in a environmentally sound manner.
  • Waste management hierarchy in the sequence of priority of prevention, minimization, reuse, recycling, recovery, co-processing; and safe disposal has been incorporated.
  • The rules are environment and industry-friendly. The provisions of the new rules are in line with this government's priority for Ease of Doing Business and Make in India, but with responsible concerns for sustainable development.
  • The new rules say that producers will have to ensure 30 per cent e-waste collection, based on their projected sales, by 2018 and 70 per cent by 2023. They can do this through a variety of ways such as a deposit refund scheme, an e-waste exchange and they also have to pay for publicity and awareness programmes. 
  • State will have to set up e-waste dismantling and recycling units in industrial park as well as register the workers involved with the e-waste business and finally, take up industrial skill development activities and ensure health and safety of workers.
  • The rules make state governments responsible for environmentally sound management of hazardous and other wastes and mandate them to set up industrial space or sheds for recycling, pre-processing and other utilization of hazardous or other waste.

 Legislative Framework: 

  • The Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 47) in the Indian Constitution requires not only that the state protect the environment, but it also compels the state to seek the improvement of polluted environments.
  • The country has a long history of environmental legislation, including the passage and codification of the Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Bengal Nuisance Act of 1905, the Motor Vehicles Act of 1988, the Factories Act of 1950, The Indian Forest Act of 1927, The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1918, and the Public Liability Insurance Act 1991, to list a few.
  • The Indian government promulgated the Environment (Protection) Act in 1986, which is umbrella legislation to protect and improve the environment and to regulate the management and handling of hazardous substances and chemicals.
  • The Ministry of Environment and Forests continuously monitors the progress made by various state governments and union territories with respect to the implementation of India's Hazardous Wastes Rules.


The success of the new rules will depend on incentivising such consumers to enter the formal recycling channel using the producer-operated buy-back scheme. They will come on board when the repurchase offer is better than that of the unorganised sector and a collection mechanism is available.


The heightened global efforts at waste and pollution reduction are offset by relentless industrial production and urbanisation, and by aspirations of nations like India to be the manufacturing and digital hub of the world. Hoornweg estimates that South Asia, mainly India, will be the fastest growing region for waste in the world by 2025. In spite of its growing environmental footprint, sound management of electronic waste has received low priority. 

The new rules proposed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to manage electronic waste must be implemented with firm political will to close the gap between growing volumes of hazardous trash and inadequate recycling infrastructure. The Environment Ministry must work closely with the States to implement the tighter rules.  It's a paradigm shift in the way India views e-waste though it's extremely ambitious and we'll have to wait and see how effectively it's implemented






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