India Struggling with Nearly Half a Million Tons of e-Waste...and Growing

electronic components in box photo

Photo via Nickjohnson via Flickr CC

India is drowning under 420,000 tons of e-waste a year. And while it isn't clear which percentage is generated within India and which percentage is imported, what is clear is that the number is growing about 10-15% each year. If the number doesn't mean much on its own, put it next to this: Pollution control officials says there are only six regular recycling units in India, with an annual capacity of 27,000 tonnes. Without recycling facilities that can handle the loads of e-waste that need to be process,ed Priti Mahesh, senior programme officer with New Delhi-based Toxic Link, says that 97% of the waste gets recycled in hazardous conditions, where workers are exposed to toxins like barium, cadmium, copper and lead.

The scale of the problem is getting government attention, with a draft of a law intending to curb the imports of e-waste and regulate recycling in the works and ready in about 6 months. However, it points to the bigger picture of too many new and unnecessary gadgets pouring into the market place, and too many old but perfectly usable gadgets pouring into dumps and recycling facilities.

Again, while percentages are unclear, "most of the waste from abroad came in the form of charity donations of old technology that finds its way to dumps or imports from countries like the United States, [Mahesh] said."

As countries like India suffering the brunt of e-waste imports get tougher on importation legislation, organizations like Basel Action Network will have to get even tougher as watch dogs, since more companies collecting gadgets for recycling will be tempted to unload them onto overburdened, under-protected e-waste dumps.

More on e-Waste in India
It's Time to Say Goodbye to e-Waste: Why Our Gadgets are Toxic to Developing Nations
e-Waste in India Growing by 10% a Year
E-waste In India: A Growing Industry & Environmental Threat
E-Waste Gets a New Pick-Me-Up in Mumbai

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