US acquires lion’s share in dumping e-waste in India: Study

Delhi-NCR is emerging as the world’s dumping yard for e-waste and likely to generate to an extent of 95,000 metric tonnes (MT) per annum by 2017 from the current level 55,000 metric tonnes per annum growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 25%, revealed a just-concluded ASSOCHAM study.

The ASSOCHAM latest paper revealed that currently e-waste of Delhi is approx. 55,000 metric tonnes per annum and employed over 2.5 Lakhs of workers in city’s various organized and unorganized recycling units, said Mr. D S Rawat, Secretary General ASSOCHAM while releasing the ASSOCHAM paper.

The paper further reveals that United States (US) is ranked top acquiring the highest share of importing e-waste in India followed by China and European Union (EU). Looking at the country-wise share in India’s e-waste imports, US has a maximum share of around 42%, China at around 30% followed by Europe at around 18% and rest 10% is from other countries like Taiwan, South Korea, Japan etc, adds the ASSOCHAM paper.

While releasing the ASSOCHAM findings, Mr. Rawat said, “less than 2 per cent of India's total electronic waste (e-waste) gets recycled due to absence of proper infrastructure, legislation and framework”.

India produces nearly 13 lakh MT of electronic waste every year. Mumbai (96,000) tops the list in generating e-waste followed Delhi-NCR (55,000) and Bangalore (52,000). "Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune find a place in the ladder, at 47,000, 35,000, 26,000, 25,000 and 19,000 metric tonnes per year respectively," the study reveals.

The paper further mentioned that Delhi alone gets around 86% 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 50,000 and 55,000 metric tonnes per year.

Delhi-NCR has emerged as the main hub of e-waste recycling in India, and perhaps the world. The e-waste imported from Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata 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 every day.

As per the estimates, over 35,000-45,000 child labour of age group between 10-14 are observed to be engaged in various e-waste activities, without adequate protection and safeguards in Delhi’s various yards and recycling workshops, adds the paper.

Mr. Rawat 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.

“As many as 10,500 mobile handset, 6,500 TV sets and 4,000 personal computers are dismantled in the city every day for reuse of their component parts and materials”, said Mr. 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 Mr. Rawat.

Computer equipment accounts for almost 68% of e-waste material followed by telecommunication equipment (12%), electrical equipment (8%) and medical equipment (7%). Other equipment, including household e-crap account for the remaining 5%, it said.

Mr. Rawat said, “e-waste is directly linked to the economic growth of the country and also overall consumer spending pattern. India’s economic growth has lifted millions of people from lower-income group to middle and high-income groups and increased purchasing power”.

More than 70 per cent of e-waste contributors are government, public and private industries, while household waste contributes about 15 per cent. Televisions, refrigerators and washing machines make up the majority of e-waste, while computers account for another 20 per cent and mobile phones 2 per cent, adds the report.

“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 and eyes pain. Recyclers may suffer liver, kidney and neurological disorders”, adds the ASSOCHAM paper.

'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. 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.

Where's e-waste recycled in Delhi
All kinds of electrical scrap: Mayapuri, Old Seelampur
Computers: Turkman Gate, Shastri Park, Lajpat Nagar, Kirti Nagar
Computer terminals: Turkman Gate, Shastri Park and Karkardooma
Lead: Mustafabad
Circuit boards: Mandoli
Gold: Meerut
Glass: Ferozabad