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India stares at pile of solar e-waste

Topics Covered:

  1. Energy and pollution related issues.


India stares at pile of solar e-waste


What to study?

  • For Prelims: Solar Power potential and technologies used to store solar power and waste generated therein.
  • For Mains: Solar e- waste- extent, concerns, effects and measures needed.


Context: By 2050, India will likely stare at a pile of a new category of electronic waste, namely solar e-waste.  India’s PV (photovoltaic) waste volume is estimated to grow to 200,000 tonnes by 2030 and around 1.8 million tonnes by 2050.


What’s missing?

  • Currently, India’s e-waste rules have no laws mandating solar cell manufacturers to recycle or dispose waste from this sector.
  • India is poorly positioned to handle PV waste as it doesn’t yet have policy guidelines on the same.
  • A lack of a policy framework is coupled with the fact that even basic recycling facilities for laminated glass and e-waste are unavailable. Despite the e-waste regulation being in place for over seven years, only less than 4% of estimated e-waste is recycled in the organised sector as per the latest estimates from the Central Pollution Control Board.


What constitutes Solar e- waste and concerns associated?

Solar modules use potentially hazardous materials, including lead compounds, polymers and cadmium compounds. If disposed of in an inappropriate way, potential leaching of those hazardous materials can have negative environmental and health impacts.

For instance, leaching of lead has huge environmental impact including loss in biodiversity, decreased growth and reproductive rates in plants and animals, and several other health hazards like adverse impact on kidney function, nervous, immune, reproductive and cardiovascular systems.


Need of the hour:

  1. Specify liability and responsibility of each stakeholder for waste management and treatment.
  2. Mandate module manufacturers to use environmentally sustainable design and materials with end-of-life in mind.
  3. Lay down standards for PV waste collection, treatment and disposal.
  4. Encourage mutual recycling responsibility agreements between module suppliers, project developers and power purchasers.
  5. Undertake regular surveys of recycling facilities to understand technology and capacity levels. Identify investment and technical requirements for dedicated PV recycling facilities with focus on high-value recovery.


Way ahead:

India is among the leading markets for solar cells in the world, buoyed by the government’s commitment to install 100 GW of solar power by 2022. So far, India has installed solar cells for about 28 GW and this has been done largely from imported solar PV cells. Therefore, the time is ripe for the country to put in place a comprehensive policy to address the issues.


Sources: the hindu.