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

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Formalisation Experience of E-waste Recyclers of Moradabad

The recycling of e-waste is both ecologically desirable and necessary. It promotes reuse of recoverable materials, thereby reducing their rate of extraction. However, resource recovery from e-waste involves convoluted chemical processes with potentially hazardous by-products, so the regulation of e-waste recycling activities is imperative. A study of the Indian E-waste Management Rules and their amendment, and the experiences of workers in the recycling industry of Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh, reveals that the push towards formalisation has not benefited either the industry or its workers. While the industry is affected by police control and rent-seeking, the workers often toil in hazardous conditions, and also face employment insecurity.


This paper was presented at the sixth Conference of the Regulating for Decent Work Network, International Labour Organization. The author is deeply indebted to the continuous guidance of Jayati Ghosh and Surajit Mazumdar. She would also like to thank the referee/s for their keen observations and comments.

E-waste is any electrical or electronic equipment or its parts that are discarded by its owner as waste, without intention of reuse (United Nations University and Step Initiative 2014: 4–5). Anything with a plug, an electric cord or a battery turns to e-waste at the end of its life. E-waste is only 2% of the solid waste stream, but represents 70% of the hazardous waste that ends up in landfills (Kaur 2019). “United Nations has warned that the world is soon going to be hit by a tsunami of e-waste” (Abraham 2019). By 2018 itself, the world had produced 485 lakh tonnes of e-waste that can make 4,500 structures as big as the Eiffel Tower (Down to Earth 2019).

E-waste generation is inevitable, but it being a liability is not. Electronics use a staggering 320 tonnes of gold and more than 7,500 tonnes of silver per annum worldwide (Basu 2015). Just a tonne of mobile phone e-waste has about 340 grams (gm) of gold (five–ten times more than the gold in one tonne of ore), 3.5 kilograms (kg) of silver, 140 gm of palladium and 130 kg of copper (Basu 2015). Chinese extraction of copper and gold from the ore was found to be 13 times more expensive than retrieving them from e-waste (Danigelis 2018). A single Chinese recycler of e-waste produces more cobalt than what is mined in the country over a year (Lahiry 2019).

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Updated On : 27th Aug, 2021
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