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E-waste status in India

Written By Gopal Krishna on Saturday, June 06, 2009 | 12:46 AM

Vaishali Bhambri, a journalist with a news agency (IANS) in conversation with environmental health analyst, Gopal Krishna

1.What are the techniques used in India to recycle electronic waste?

There is no technique involved besides manual & primitive dismantling operations which are occurring in unorganized/informal sector in hazardous manner. The “disposal process” of e-waste that includes three main categories of end-of-life large household appliances, IT and telecom and consumer equipment (especially their twenty six common components) is characterized as hazardous processes under the law.

Guidelines on e-waste refer to even radioactive substances in e-waste but there is no technique or law that can regulate its handling by recycling workers as of now.

The recycle and recovery includes the unit operations beginning with dismantling, removal of parts containing dangerous substances, removal of easily accessible parts containing valuable substances, segregation of ferrous metal, non-ferrous metal and plastic, treatment & disposal of dangerous materials and waste. In fact the value of recovery from the elements would be much higher if appropriate technologies are
used.

2. Is it true that still a lot of developed countries dump their electronic waste in India or ports surrounding India?

Yes, in order to escape and externalize their pollution costs, it is true that developed countries dump their electronic wastes and other hazardous wastes in India. Lax environmental regulations and gullible and conniving officials are hand in glove with activities. Existing Indian laws attempt to promote such hazardous wastes as recycling materials in a manifest exercise of linguistic corruption wherein
waste is being defined as waste as non-waste. It estimated that the amount of discarded electronics imported to India is growing at the rate of 10 percent each year.

3. Anything that Green custom is doing on the world environment day, in context of e-waste recycling?

Illegal traffic in hazardous wastes or other wastes is criminal, and countries are obligated to “introduce appropriate national/domestic legislation to prevent and punish illegal traffic” under a multilateral environment, UN's Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. It covers all discarded/disposed materials that possess hazardous characteristics as well as all wastes considered hazardous on a national basis. E-waste is considered hazardous under Article 1 of the Convention.

World Customs Organisation and United Nations Environment Programme have launched a Green Customs Initiative, in collaboration with 10 international organisations and UN convention Secretariats concerned with the implementation or enforcement of multilateral environmental agreements with trade-related aspects because customs officers on the frontline of facilitating and monitoring international trade wherein certain “environmentally sensitive” substances and commodities cross borders to the detriment of human health or ecosystems because of their inherent hazardous qualities, their potential for misuse etc. Such items include banned or restricted chemicals, hazardous and toxic waste etc. When a shipment gives rise to suspicions, the Customs officer take action. Successful detection and prosecution of illegal traffic require the co-operation of all enforcement agencies at the national level.

Customs officers cannot combat illegal traffic alone; they have to rely on the relevant national environmental agencies to provide them with the appropriate legal and technical information so they are in a position to identify instances of illegal traffic and know what steps to take. Conversely, national environment agencies and enforcement agencies need the support of the Customs agencies to ensure that cases of suspected illegal traffic are detected as early as possible at the border and are signalled to the appropriate national authorities. But if the national authorities are persuaded by various considerations to define waste as non-waste (hazardous waste as recyclable material) in that e-waste dumping becomes a routine activity. Waste of one country is declared as resource in our country under the influence of the unscrupulous scrap metal traders and the recycling industry with impunity.

4. what percentage of E waste is recycled in India ?

According to the CPCB estimates, based on the obsolescence rate of electronic goods, it is expected that e-waste would exceed 8,00,000 tonnes by 2012. The total amount of India's e-waste imports for 2009 is expected to be around 434,000 metric tons, as per a study by our Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

5.Where all is it recycled?

All the e-waste recycling units are operating in un-organized sector. There are two e-waste dismantling facilities in formal sector in India. These facilities are M/s. Trishiraya Recycling facilities, Chennai and M/s E-Parisara, Bangalore.

Among top ten cities generating e-waste, Mumbai ranks first followed by Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Surat and Nagpur.There are some sixty-five cities in India generate more than 60% of the total e-waste generated in India. In Delhi and its vicinity various recycling operations are undertaken in places like Turkman Gate, Mayapuri, Old Seelampur Market, Shastri Park, Lajpat Nagar, Kirti Nagar, Karkarduma, Mustafabad, Mandoli, Meerut, Ferozabad and many other places. Recycling of end of life mobile phones is a rapidly emerging area. Ten states generate 70% of the total e-waste generated in India. Maharashtra ranks first followed by Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab in the list of e-waste generating states in India.
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