Harmful e-waste

With the increasing use of electrical and electronic gadgets in our lives the disposal of the equipment after their life span is posing increasing environmental and health problems. Computers, television sets, refrigerators, mobiles and many other devices are thrown away or taken apart to be dumped as scrap and there is hardly a thought about where they end up or how they are handled. Some of them contain valuable materials like gold, silver and copper and it is to extract them that these are made to go through the scrap channel. But they also contain harmful substances like lead, cadmium, mercury and beryllium. The toxic emissions from these substances pollute air, water and soil and once contamination takes place it is almost impossible to undo the damage.

E-waste generally goes into the recycling industry which thrives in every city with a chain of dealers, agents and rag pickers. Though the reuse or recycling of electrical or electronic parts fetches some income to those who are engaged in the activity, the gains are outweighed by the harmful effects. It is estimated that four lakh tonnes of e-waste was generated in India in 2007. This is expected to double by 2012. It is handled without any expertise, protective measures and necessary techniques. As a result only less than five per cent of the recycling is done properly. The proposed legislation obligating the manufacturers of electronic goods to buy back their products from the buyers and recycle them properly needs to be hastened.

It is not just e-waste from the country that is causing the problem. Thousands of tonnes of waste are illegally brought into the country from the US, Europe and other countries for disposal, because laws in those countries are very strict and disposal is costly. They are handled in scrap yards by workers who have no training. The exposure to toxic chemicals causes serious health problems. A large number of workers are women and children. It is not only the workers and others who handle the waste that are affected. The harm done to the environment affects everyone. The situation is especially alarming in cities like Bangalore which are driven by the electronics industry. Local civic bodies have a major responsibility to ensure that e-waste is handled properly in their areas.

DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
Comments (+)