E-Waste Gets a New Pick-Me-Up in Mumbai

Although the largely informal e-waste disposal industry and corresponding environmental threat is nothing new in India, it may now be changing as one of India’s largest metropolises is now boasting its very own professional e-waste pick-up service.

Based in Mumbai, the privately owned and operated Eco Reco is the first of its kind in the state of Maharashtra and fourth in the country. Firms such as Eco Reco are taking advantage of a booming but hazardous industry, where e-waste is usually dismantled by workers with little protection in recycling plants that have even fewer safety and environmental contamination guidelines.
But times are changing in this $1.5 billion industry, where half a million tons of domestic e-waste are also generated annually – 30,000 of them in Mumbai alone. ''People are used to giving stuff to the kabadiwalas (scrap dealers) and getting money for it. But proper e-waste disposal is a transitional phase and will soon catch up,'' says B. K. Soni, head of Eco Reco.

The e-waste disposal dilemma is not confined to India’s cities alone. Each year, hundreds of tons of e-waste are invariably imported duty-free from developed countries such as the U.S. The hazardous electronic waste is disguised as charitable offerings in order to circumvent the Basel Convention, an international treaty meant to regulate and reduce the transfer of hazardous waste between nations. Imports such as these to countries such as India, China and Pakistan are blatant violations of the treaty and have environmental activist groups, such as Delhi’s Toxics Link, working hard to inform the public and pressuring governments to establish better guidelines and regulations at the national and state-level.

Eco-friendly mobility is the key

Taking their cue from the mobile kabadiwalas, Eco Reco uses a mobile van that goes door-to-door to pick up discarded electronics. At the company’s plant, the e-trash then goes through the shredder on a conveyor belt, and the components are separated by a metal extractor. Workers then break up the plastic from the metal by hand.

Eco Reco’s eco-friendly marketing approach seems to be working and in a little over three months, the company has garnered fifty clients, one of them being Tata Services, one of Tata Motors’ subsidiaries.

T. R. Doongaji, MD, of Tata Services says, ''Earlier, we used to donate to schools thinking we have done charity but we were in turn putting our problem onto someone's head.''
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Related Links on E-Waste
How to Better Mitigate the Impact of E-Waste
How to: Recycle Your Computer
E-Waste Guide
E-Waste Situation in India

Image: Greenpeace

Tags: E-Waste | India | Recycling

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