ASSOCHAM, the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India along with Frost & Sullivan, a global consulting firm recently conducted a research on ‘Electronic Waste Management in India’ and released a report on the current e-waste scenario on the eve of the World Earth Day. According to the report, India produces nearly 12.5 lakh metric tonnes (MT) of electronic waste every year. This quantity is expected to reach up to 15 lakh metric tonnes (MT) per year by 2015.

The quantity of e-waste is proportional to the purchasing power and spending pattern of consumers, which is directly linked to the economic growth of the country. The increasing volumes of e-waste can be correlated to India’s economic growth, resulting in better purchasing power. Let’s take a look at the findings of the report.

Top E-waste Contributors:

The ASSOCHAM study highlighted the following cities as the top producers of e-waste in the country based on annual e-waste generation:

1. Mumbai – the leading e-waste producer with the contribution of 96,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste per year

2. Delhi (NCR) – ranked second with 67,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste per year

3. Bangalore ranked third in the list with 57,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste per year.

 

Apart from the top three e-waste producers, the report also listed following five cities among the top producers of e-waste:

 

  • Chennai – 47,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste per year
  • Kolkata – 35,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste per year
  • Ahemdabad – 26,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste per year
  • Hyderabad – 25,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste per year
  • Pune – 19,000 metric tonnes (MT) of e-waste per year.

According to the report, government, public and private industries contribute more than 70 per cent of e-waste while 15% comes from households. Televisions, refrigerators and washing machines make up the majority of e-waste generated, while computers make up to 20 per cent and mobile phones 2 per cent.

E-waste Management in India:

The research found that only 4% of 12.5 lakh metric tonnes of e-waste produced is recycled. Poor infrastructure and lack of strict legislation has lead to irreparable damage to the environment and health of people working in the industry. More importantly, over 95% of this e-waste is managed by the informal sector or local scrap dealers, which is unorganized, untrained and virtually ignorant about the hazardous nature of e-waste. Most of the time, e-waste is just dismantled instead of being recycled responsibly. Informal recyclers use primitive and hazardous methods like acid stripping and open air incineration for processing e-waste. These methods are highly unsafe and cause pollution by releasing toxins from e-waste into the environment.

Child Labor – Integral part of the Informal E-waste Recycling Sector

The ASSOCHAM report says – “In India, about 4.5 lakhs child labours between the age group of 10-14 are observed to be engaged in various e-waste (electronic waste) activities, without adequate protection and safeguards in various yards and recycling workshops.”

Speaking at the release of the report, D S Rawat, Secretary General ASSOCHAM, said that local scrap dealers in the informal recycling industry hire children to dismantle electronic waste without any concern for their health or any regulations against child labor. Emphasizing the current child labor situation in the unorganized e-waste recycling sector, he highlighted the urgent need for strict laws and regulations to prevent child labor in e-waste collection, segregation and distribution activities.

How does it Impact the Environment

Burning of electrical products for metal extraction and other processes is extremely hazardous for the environment and the people living around it. Dr. B K Rao, Chairman of ASSOCHAM’s Health Committee speaking at the release of the ASSOCHAM paper added that domestic e-waste, which includes old television sets, computer systems, mobile phones and refrigerators, contain over 1,000 toxic materials, which pollute the soil and ground water. Exposure to these toxic materials can cause nausea, irritability, headache, vomiting and sore eyes. Recyclers directly involved in crude e-waste processing activities without safety measures may be diagnosed with kidney, liver or neurological disorder.

Rao further informed that these (electronic) products have components that contain toxic substances like barium, BFRs, beryllium, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, plastic, PVC, and carcinogens like carbon black and heavy metals. This lethal mix can cause serious health issues for e-waste recyclers.

Lack of awareness, lenient legislation, improper coordination between authorities, illegal flow of e-waste and non- involvement of municipalities are some of the mentioned causes for the current e-waste disaster according to the report.

How do we tackle the E-waste Problem?

Here are some ways in which we can tackle the electronic waste issue -

  • Strict implementation of Rules
  • More easy to reach E-waste collection centers
  • Training of informal recyclers regarding proper recycling techniques
  • Regulations to stop child labor
  • Organizing and providing structure to the established informal recycling sector

Initiatives by Attero

Attero Recycling Pvt. Ltd. is India’s first end-to-end electronic asset management organization. A NASA recognized technology innovator, Attero has developed disruptive technology to allow for environmentally responsible, low cost and high efficiency e-waste recycling and resource recovery.

With its Clean e-India Initiative in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank entity, Attero works with all stakeholders involved in the electronics lifecycle, including the informal sector to set up an effective consumer take back program. The company also provides training and technical knowledge to workers from the informal recycling sector to promote adoption of eco-friendly recycling techniques. Under this initiative, Attero is also helping raise awareness about e-waste hazards through its e-waste awareness programs and collection drives.