I saw this in an online news outlet from New Delhi. I had already become aware of this problem in the past and I spoke about it here on this blog under the article, How To Make eWaste Processing Easier. What is happening is that India has imported a ton of electronics waste from all over the world. This is in addition to its own electronics waste, which is substantial. The end result to this unfortunate situation is a disposal dilemma.
According to the article, there are no separate figures for e-waste generated by Indians and the amount of it that was imported but the scale of the problem is growing. In fact, the local authorities expect it to reach 800,000 tons by the end of this year. This is, I think, outrageous. The effects of this pollution will be devastating to the poor populations of this struggling country and will eventually effect us all through the air and water.
Pollution control officials are saying that India only has six regular recycling units with a total yearly capacity of only 27,000 tons. This is obviously not enough. Consider that a single state in our country has more capacity than this and India is more densely populated than we are!
But they are just as high tech hungry as we are. They have become enamored of the modern mobile phones and televisions with a burgeoning middle class who sees electronic appliances as important status symbols. This is a mirror of our own culture, as Americans hold a similar view. Also, much of the waste from abroad comes to India in the form of charity donations of old technology. Schools and businesses snap this stuff up in order to provide their population with the advantages of modern tools. It also ends up being refurbished and sold to an Indian population that wants badly to join the technology boom that the US and other wealthy countries currently enjoy. But then this stuff finds its way to dumps and recycling centers, creating the dangers of plastics leaking dioxins and LCDs.
One of the worst side effects of this situation in India is that there is no mechanical method of dismantling or breaking down this gear and most of it is done by hand. This exposes the workers to carcinogenic metals including barium, lead, copper and cadmium. I guess cancer will soon be a big problem over there as well.
Add to this that most of the stuff is recycled in hazardous conditions and you have a recipe for disaster. It has been realized over the past few decades that plastic leaks dioxin during the breakdown process so it is no longer recycled in the US. However, this is not keeping India and other poor countries from importing tons of the stuff and then recycling it after use. There is no shortage of sickness, including cancer and other fatal diseases, in the slums that sit adjacent to these recycling centers and landfills.
Currently, the government is trying to bring in legislation to curb the imports of e-waste and regulate recycling. But it may be very hard to do with an eager customer base of people too poor to afford new.
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