It is not just the soild municipal waste that we need to worry about. Another kind of waste that the hi-tech days we are living in, has given is the electronic waste also called e-waste. You will be surprised to know that globally we produce 47.8 million tonnes of e-waste. And as per the joint study Rethinking Waste- Scaling Opportunity in India done by ASSOCHAM, Sofies and Toxic Links, the figure is likely to increase up to 49.8 million tonnes next year.
Sadly, India produces third largest amount of e-waste, 1.7 million tonnes. China produces the maximum (6 million tonnes) and Japan ranks second in the list at 2.2 million tones.
Of the total electronic waste that is produced in our country, only a meager 1.5 per cent is recycled and another 8 per cent is rendered useless and goes to landfill sites. Rest all is left untreated or treated in an unscientific manner, with bare hands and no protective facemasks which results in inhalation of toxic fumes. Tube-lights, motherboards and toner cartridges are burnt on open flames, spewing lead, mercury and cadmium into the air. This is despite the fact that the Ministry of Environment and Forests has draft rules for management of e-waste.
The result is about 80 per cent of electronic waste workers in India suffer from respiratory ailments like breathing difficulties, irritation, coughing and choking due to improper safeguards. And, this is something which we need to worry about.
Electronic waste contains various toxic substances, including mercury, lead, and brominated flame-retardants. Upon prolonged exposure during unsafe e-waste recycling activities, these substances lead to damage of almost all major body systems (nervous systems, blood systems, brain development, skin disorders, lung cancer, heart, liver, and spleen damage).
Further, hazardous substances contained in the electronic products, such as mercury, may be lost if not recovered properly, and lead to air contamination, groundwater and soil contamination.
There is a dire need to reach out to the workers of the informal sector, raise awareness about the consequence of improper electronic waste management, and include them as part of the solution to e-waste related issues.
While it is incumbent upon the Government authorities to include informal recyclers into long term e-waste management policies, people also need to be cautious and conscious about the way they dispose e-waste.
So what, as a consumer, should you do to dispose your e-waste.
Do a thorough search and research about your e-waste recycler. Choose the one about whom you are sure will treat your e-waste scientifically. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has a list of e-waste recyclers operating in India on its website. Do go through it to find a registered agency to dispose your e-waste.
You can also explore retail options. Many companies have an effective recycling program in all of their stores. Samsung India, for example, encourages its customers for e-waste recycling, through its STAR (Samsung Take-back And Recycling) programme. Get in touch with your retailer to know about e-waste disposal.
Donate your electronic items. Often we change our phones, washing machines, televisions etc not because the older one has some working issue but because we just want to upgrade our lifestyle, or we fancy that new model showroom. In such cases, be large-hearted enough and donate your old stuff to people who cannot afford to buy them. You can also donate to old age homes and orphanages etc.
Last, but not the least, encourage your neighbors to join you and spread the word about educated way of e-waste disposal.
Remember, every time you buy a new electronic device, it is your responsibility to dispose/recycle your old one properly. Don’t be greedy to buy more and more, if you cannot dispose the old one properly.
Resolve to be a part of the solution rather than increasing the problem at hand. Help make the earth a better place to live. You owe it to your children. Right!!