LUCKNOW: India’s capital is emerging as the world’s dumping capital for e-waste, with hazardous activities taking place and like to generate e-waste to an extent of 50,000 metric tonnes (MT) per annum by 2015 from the current level of 30,000 metric tonnes per annum, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 25%, according to an Assocham estimate.

The Assocham latest study on “E-waste in India by 2015” revealed that currently e-waste of Delhi is approximately 30,000 metric tones per annum and employs more than 1.5 lakh workers in city’s various organised and unorganised recycling units, said DS Rawat, secretary general of Assocham while releasing the Assocham paper.

“As many as 8,500 mobile handsets; 5,500 TV sets and 3,000 personal computers are dismantled in the city everyday for reuse of their component parts and materials,” said Rawat.

“While the list is growing ,so is the quantity as these products are getting more affordable and more and more people are using them. Increasing usage also leads to more of them coming up for disposal, thus increasing the rate of obsolescence and replacement,” added Rawat.

The paper further stated that large e-waste centres exist in Delhi, NCR, Meerut, Firozabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai, with 85,000 recyclers working in Delhi-NCR alone.

Workers are poorly-protected in an environment where e-waste from PC monitors, PCBs, CDs, motherboards, cables, toner cartridges, light bulbs and tube-lights are burned in the open, releasing lead, mercury toxins into the air.

Metals and non-degradable materials such as gold and platinum, aluminium, cadmium, mercury, lead and brominated flame-retardants are retrieved.

The paper further mentioned that Delhi alone gets around 85% of the electronic waste generated in the developed world.

In terms of total e-waste produced internally or brought from outside for recycling, Delhi’s e-waste weighs between 25,000 and 30,000 metric tonnes per year.

The study highlights that though Mumbai and Chennai are the top importers of junk computers and electronic waste in India, Delhi has emerged as the main hub of e-waste recycling in India, and perhaps the world.

The e-waste imported from Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai makes its way to Delhi, as there is a ready market for glass and plastic in the NCR. Also, the wastes from Mumbai constitute a bulk of the 1,500 tonnes discarded electronics that land in Delhi’s scrap yards everyday.

Assocham has also strongly advocated the need to bring out effective legislation to prevent entry of child labour into its collection, segregation and distribution.

As per the estimates, more then 35,000-45,000 child labourers in the age group from 10 to 14 years are observed to be engaged in various e-waste activities, without adequate protection and safeguards in Delhi’s various yards and recycling workshops.

“Domestic e-waste including computer, TV, mobiles and refrigerators contain over 1,000 toxic material, which contaminate soil and ground water. Exposure can cause headache, irritability, nausea, vomiting, eye pain. Recyclers may suffer liver, kidney and neurological disorders,” said Dr BK Rao, chairman of Assocham Health committee releasing the Assocham paper.

Due to lack of awareness, they are risking their health and the environment as well. They use strong acids to retrieve precious metals such as gold.

Working in poorly-ventilated enclosed areas without masks and technical expertise results in exposure to dangerous and slow-poisoning chemicals, adds the paper.

It also highlights that that there are no clear guidelines for the unorganized sector to handle e-waste. The recyclers are not fully aware of the health risks.

”These products have components that contain toxic substances like lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, plastic, PVC, BFRs, barium, beryllium, and carcinogens like carbon black and heavy metals. This deadly mix can cause severe health problems in those handling the waste,” adds Dr Rao.

Printed circuit boards, for instance, contain heavy metals like Antimony, Gold, Silver, Chromium, Zinc, Lead, Tin and Copper. The method of extracting these materials from circuit boards is highly hazardous and involves heating the metals in the open.

“Issues relating to poor sensitisation about this sector, low organized recycling, cross-border flow of waste equipment into India, limited reach out and awareness regarding disposal, after determining end of useful life, and lack of coordination between various authorities are responsible for the non-involvement of municipalities in E-waste management,” said Rawat.

He further also added that each state should develop its own scrap yards in the respective cities so that the environmental hazards would be minimized in Delhi-NCR.

Courtesy: The Economic Times

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