ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hazardous Mountains

Dealing with e-waste must remain the primary responsibility of manufacturers of electronic goods.

Mountains of waste are the predictable consequence of a consumerist economy. When that waste is also poison ous, affecting air, water and ultimately human health, it cannot be ignored. Yet, India has chosen to look the other way even as rapid economic growth has brought in its wake an array of consumer goods, including computers, mobile phones and electronic items, that have built-in obsolescence. What do you do with such products when they near the end of their useful life? Throw them in a junkyard or recycle them? Are the components of these electronic goods safe for humans to handle? Who will handle them? Do we have systems in place for safe disposal of hazardous e-waste?

These questions have been persistently raised by civil society groups alarmed at the exponential growth in electronic waste (e-waste) in India over the last decade. Currently, the country is said to produce an estimated 4,00,000 tonnes of e-waste annually that is growing at the rate of 10% a year. In addition, India receives, illegally as transportation of toxic waste across borders is banned under the Basel Convention, another 8,000 tonnes of e-waste from other countries. But to deal with the waste, there are only a handful of facilities in the organised sector. The majority of recyclers and waste handlers work out of the informal sector in small sweatshops where the waste is sorted by hand and where there is no sign of any safety equipment to protect the workers from exposure to hazards.

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