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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Where goes the trash?

Aritra Bhattacharya
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Aritra Bhattacharya
According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India produced 1,46,000 tonnes of electronic waste (discarded computers and peripherals and other electronic goods) in 2004. That isn’t such a big number given India’s size, and might make one wonder what all the recent fuss about e-waste is all about. In such case, a peering eye could bring the magnitude of the problem into focus.

For one, India’s PC penetration currently stands at 10-12 / 1000; the tenth five-year-plan envisages it at 75 / 1000. The seven fold increase in the number of computers will see a corresponding wave in e-waste generation volumes, once the machines become obsolete.
Secondly, the Electronic Manufacturers’ Association estimates that by 2012, India will produce 5 million tones of e-waste. Considering the IT industry is pegged to grow at 35 percent and the average lifespan of a computer in a technology company is 3-4 years, 5 million tones doesn’t seem to be far away.

For simplicity sake though, let’s stop future-gazing and concentrate on the present scenario. There are just two CPCB-authorized e-waste recyclers in the country viz. Bangalore-based E-parisaara and Chennai-based Trishyiraya. Between them, they recycle 600 tonnes and 350 tonnes of e-waste respectively on a yearly basis. That accounts for just 1000 out of the 1,46,000 tonnes of electronic waste generated (in a year). So what happens to the rest of the 1,45,000 tonnes?

Simply put, it makes its way into the informal recycling sector. And in that gives rise to serious health and environmental implications. And how!
The informal recyclers, scrap dealers so to say, operate out of dilapidated makeshift structures located in pockets of major metropolises. They are run illegally, and allegedly in conduit with major corporations who ‘sell’ their electronic waste to them, at a price much higher than authorized recyclers can offer. This, simply because the latter have to spend a considerable amount on maintaining stipulated safeguards, while the informal sector has no such strapping.

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