Photo by Jaymi Heimbuch
A report by India's Department of Scientific and Industrial Research shows that e-waste heading into India is increasing by 10% a year, with nearly all of it heading into urban slums for disassembly - which means a huge amount of toxins hitting a huge number of people.
The total amount of India's e-waste imports is projected to reach 434,000 metric tons this year, and about 25,000 people in the country's slums will make up the bulk of the recycling industry there. The report notes that there is almost no oversight or regulation for dismantling used electronics there, which contain toxic substances like lead, mercury and cadmium, and are often disassembled in environmentally and toxic ways.
e-Waste is no small issue. Because it provides a form of income for those people working as dismantlers, their health is risked for survival - not a recipe for thriving. As stated above, the report estimates that 25,000 people in India's slums are working in this "recycling" industry, where 95% of the e-waste imported will be dismantled. But that's just the people working in a way that can be reported - that's not all the people living in the area, breathing the air, drinking the water, walking past workshops...
Though systems are kinda sorta in the works to improve the toxic situations, there is no really strong, wide-spread system for responsibly recycling e-waste. For instance, there's only one facility in Mumbai for recycling e-waste, and Mumbai generates over 25,000 tons of e-waste a year.
We have to stop and wonder, can any place on earth afford a 10% increase in unregulated e-waste? It's a sign of a much bigger waste problem, and a reminder - Repair, reuse, responsibly recycle.