*NEWS*INDIA’S E-WASTE PROBLEM

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*NEWS*INDIA’S E-WASTE PROBLEM

 user 2005-11-28 at 11:04:00 am Views: 79
  • #13264

    The e-waste problem(INDIA)
    The hazardous effects of e-waste are a worrisome problem.
    You
    may be a software professional working on the latest PC, a call-centre
    employee on your first job, or a teenager tapping away furiously on an
    assembled computer at home. Whatever slot you fall into, have you
    stopped to think what happens when you get parts of your PC, or all of
    it, replaced? Where do these parts go and where does all the unwanted
    or unusable stuff land up? e-waste or Waste from Electronic and
    Electrical Equipment (WEEE) is no longer a subject for academic
    discussions at environmental forums. Instead, there is a growing
    realisation that the issue may assume dangerous proportions over the
    next few years if it continues to be left unaddressed.
    The situation
    is alarming. According to a survey by IRG Systems, South Asia, the
    total waste generated by obsolete or broken-down electronic and
    electrical equipment in India has been estimated to be 1,46,180 tons
    per year based on select EEE tracer items. This figure does not include
    WEEE imports. At the rate at which technological changes are taking
    place, not only in computers and cell phones but also in domestic
    appliances such as washing machines, refrigerators, microwave ovens and
    TV sets, the problem seems to be compounding.
    India a dumping ground
    End-of-life
    products find their way to recycling yards in countries such as India
    and China, where poorly-protected workers dismantle them, often by
    hand, in appalling conditions. About 25,000 workers are employed at
    scrap-yards in Delhi alone, where 10,000 to 20,000 tons of e-waste are
    handled every year, with computers accounting for 25 percent of it.
    Other e-waste scrap-yards exist in Meerut, Ferozabad, Chennai,
    Bangalore and Mumbai. About 80 percent of the e-waste generated in the
    US is exported to India, China and Pakistan, and unorganised recycling
    and backyard scrap-trading forms close to 100 percent of total e-waste
    processing activity. Many of India’s corporations burn e-waste such as
    PC monitors, PCBs, CDs, motherboards, cables, toner cartridges, light
    bulbs and tube-lights in the open along with garbage, releasing large
    amounts of mercury and lead into the atmosphere.
    IT is the largest contributor
    Toxics
    Link, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), says that
    India annually generates $1.5 billion worth of e-waste. As per a study
    done last year by Bangalore-based NGO, Saahas, that city generates
    around 8,000 tons of e-waste every year. It is true that the e-waste
    spectrum is broad, but we see that IT companies are the single largest
    contributors to the growing mountains of it. This is because 30 percent
    of their equipment is rendered obsolete every year. The average
    computer monitor or television set holds, apart from complex plastic
    blends that are either difficult to recycle or non-degradable, valuable
    components such as gold and platinum, aluminium, cadmium, mercury, lead
    and brominated flame-retardants.
    Above and left: work being carried out at a recycler in Delhi. Photos courtesy Greenpeace India
    Slow poisoning
    As
    is the case in the disposal of medical waste, private sector
    participation is needed to handle the huge quantities of e-waste that
    are being generated
    “It is a means of livelihood for unorganised
    recyclers. 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,” says Wilma Rodrigues of Saahas. She says
    there are no clear guidelines for the unorganised sector to handle
    e-waste.
    The trade in e-waste is camouflaged and is a thriving
    business in India. It is conducted under the pretext of obtaining
    ‘reusable’ equipment or ‘donations’ from developed nations. According
    to K K Shajahan, Principal Consultant, Indian Institute of Material
    Management, Bangalore, “Trade in e-waste, like that in other scrap, is
    dominated by the ‘informal’ sector. Although the waste trade sector in
    India is known as part of the ‘informal’ sector, it has a system that
    is highly organised with extensive co-ordination in an established
    network. The recycling of e-waste is undertaken in an unscientific
    manner, impacting both health and environment.” Recently, the Karnataka
    State Pollution Control Board has given authorisation for two
    commercial enterprises to handle e-waste in Bangalore-e-Parisaraa and
    Ash Recyclers. The authorised companies get e-waste from corporates to
    manage the menace following the rules and regulations set down by the
    Pollution Board.
    In India, organised recycling companies extract
    metals through copper smelting, which is followed by pulverisation. The
    use of chemicals for bleaching is avoided. They also ensure safety
    aspects such as employees wearing masks.
    State of denial
    As of
    now, NGOs are carrying out an inventory of e-waste. Like the disposal
    of medical waste, private sector participation is needed to set up
    units to handle the huge quantity of e-waste that’s being generated.
    The Central Pollution Control Board, the Government of India’s
    regulatory and monitoring body, continues to deny that e-waste is
    coming into India. Unfortunately, it’s true that countries such as
    India and Pakistan are becoming the dumping yards of e-waste from the
    US and other industrialised nations. e-waste recycling is lucrative
    because electronic equipment has small quantities of valuable material
    such as gold and copper. Loopholes in law and enforcement are utilised
    by all parties-the importers, traders and recyclers.
    The problem is
    compounded by the fact that imported equipment is brought in duty-free
    and is customs-bound. It is high time that the Government and port
    authorities in India implement the Hazardous Waste Rules and check the
    illegal imports of e-waste at the entry point itself. The awareness on
    the hazardous effects of e-waste has not yet sunk in, barring a handful
    of IT and consumer electronics firms. Companies such as LG, Sony
    Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, Sony, Wipro and Infosys are involved in
    eliminating toxic chemicals from electronic goods. Says Y B Yoo,
    Vice-president, Manufacturing, Samsung India, “We encourage our vendors
    to ensure lead, cadmium, mercury and chromium-free components. In
    addition to 1SO 14001-compliant vendor facilities, they should have a
    manual for ensuring conformity with the Restriction of Hazardous
    Substances Act. Our audit team regularly checks vendor facilities for
    environmental compliance. The waste generated is either returned to the
    suppliers for recycling and reuse or disposed off to vendors certified
    by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for treatment of the waste.”
    Under its Ozone Initiative, Infosys complies with all legal
    requirements. It meets and exceeds the ISO 14001 standards for
    environmental initiatives.
    The government’s responsibilities
    Inadequate governance
    The
    IT sector is taking baby-steps towards dismantling e-waste through the
    organised sector. Says P Parthasarathy, Managing Director of
    e-Parisaraa, “IT companies are bypassing [the proper procedures to deal
    with] their obsolete hardware products through donations and the
    unorganised sector. The rules, regulations and maintenance of records
    involved in going through organised recyclers are holding back many
    companies.”
    Additionally, the support from the Government is not up
    to expectations. The draft of the policy and guidelines for e-waste
    management which are ready are waiting for the approval of the
    Government adds Parthasarathy who is also a member of the e-waste
    management task force.