E-Waste Disposal in India
India is importing billions of dollars of electronics each year now as people hanker after the latest smartphones and tablets. The average life of a new electronic device has decreased radically, with a smartphone’s life being just 2 years on average. Note this characteristic is not unique to India but is present in a much bigger way in developed nations such as Japan and USA as well. However, India faces a major problem which the other nations do not have. How to dispose off the massive amount of electronic waste that is being generated. While Europe and USA have developed very strong standards on how to dispose off the waste safely and also mandated who is responsible, India remains far behind in developing and enforcing these regulations.
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India is generating 1.6 million tons of electronic waste annually, most of which ends in toxic waste in rivers. India has a thriving scrap market in which dealers buy the electronics cheaply and use crude methods of extracting precious metals and throwing away toxic elements such as cadmium and lead. This is going to create a huge pollution problem, as the waste keeps on growing each year. The government in India is realizing this problem but as is the wont, is just in fits and starts. The Mumbai development authority plans to build a 4 acre facility, but will not be responsible for processing the waste. The MMRDA has been sleeping on the proposal for 3 years and is still not close to implementing it.
The industry association and the government should urgently formulate a model for fixing the responsibility of processing the waste. They need to collaborate with the recyclers and the nascent e-waste industry to formulate a long term sustainable plan. Otherwise we will face a massive problem of toxic waste in the future.
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