E-waste in India: Mumbai leads, followed by Delhi and Bangalore

India generates 2.7 million tonnes of E-Waste annually. Of this, over 60 percent is generated by 65 cities. A whopping 70 percent of the total Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) come from ten states.

Sulekha Nair

“I am always short of supply of E-Waste. I need to deploy 2000 computers to schools, but I have no inventory against it,” says Anand Tater, Founder and Director, Reboot System (I) Pvt. Ltd., a Gurgaon-based recycling firm. The company, set up in October 2012, delivers recycled solutions from used technological assets in the IT sector.

India has just 16 computers per 1000 people wherein only 9 million out of 168 million rural households and 15 million of the 78 million urban households currently have a PC. Only 2.2 percent public schools have computers with an average 5/10 children sharing a single PC. Hence, availability, access and  penetration of PCs is abysmally low at present, says Tater.

Against this reality, as mentioned by Tater, is this survey that was released by Nasscom this week which reveals that India generates 2.7 million tonnes of E-Waste annually. Of this, over 60 percent is generated by 65 cities. A whopping 70 percent of the total Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) come from ten states.

Mumbai leads the country for generating the highest E-Waste, followed by Delhi and Bangalore. Among states in the country, Maharashtra is again among the leaders of E-Waste followed by Tamil Nadu.

The other states sharing this dubious honour are Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.

What is E-Waste?

E-Waste is the fastest growing waste stream, with a growth rate of 3-5 percent per year. WEEE today already constitutes eight percent of municipal waste and is one of the fastest growing waste fractions.

E-Waste is defined as 'Waste generated from used electronic devices and household appliances which are not fit for their originally intended use and are destined for recovery, recycling and disposal'.

Not many corporate takers

The awareness of disposal of e waste is almost nil in the country, says Shrikant Sinha, CEO, Nasscom Foundation, reasoning why India’s E-Waste generation is on a high. “Around 60 percent of  E-Waste can be recycled, but the question is how much is really being recycled. Though there is an increased awareness in the organized sector, the figures vary from city to city.”

There is a thriving grey market in the outskirts of Delhi where kabbadiwallahs burn E-Waste for the metals and it poses a danger not only for the environment but also the persons themselves indulging in it, says Sinha. With some corporate organisations corporates and others – who pass on the work of disposing E-Waste to their administration departments who are willing to dispose off their E-Waste in the grey market where it fetches more money – the dangers it poses are much higher.

India has close to over 100 recycling companies, but yet, it is the grey market route that most take. This is because there are no stringent punishment for non implementation or breaking of rules, says S John Robert, CEO, Earth Sense Recycle Company, a Kerala-based recycling firm. He says that the grey market gets E-Waste for which the buyers are willing to pay a premium.

Around 70 percent in the country do not know how to recycle E-Waste, says Tater. “There is an ambiguity about how to dispose of E-Waste though there are government rules.”

Most MNCs and leading IT companies take steps to recycle e waste, say most recycling companies. “They have been doing this irrespective of the government notification,” they say.

R Chandrashekhar, President, Nasscom says that only 1.23 percent of companies have an exclusive policy for managing E-Waste with defined Turn Around Time (TAT). The survey found that over half the number of companies that participated in the survey did not have an exclusive policy on E-Waste management and only 32 percent of the companies have their E-Waste management policy covered under the aegis of their Environment policy while 18 percent of the responders were not aware whether a policy existed.

The global electronics market with a total turnover close to $1.774 trillion is the largest and fastest manufacturing industry in the world. Mobile phones, TVs, PCs, etc. account for 53 percent of the electronics industry while the rest is accounted for by embedded electronics in transport (cars, planes, trains, etc.), defence and manufacturing equipment.

According to a study by Ernst & Young, the Indian domestic demand for electronics products is expected to reach $125 billion by 2014. Recent estimates from Manufacturers' Association of Information Technology (MAIT) estimates that Indian PC alone industry is gr owing at a 25 percent compounded annual growth (CAG).

A recent study by ASSOCHAM estimates that India produces 13 Lakhs MT of e waste per annum with a CAGR of 25 percent. Hyderabad is the sixth largest generator of  E-Waste amounting to 25000 MT of E-Waste annually.

The report further states that only two percent gets recycled through the organized sector. E-Waste also has serious environmental and health implications. WHO states that health risks may result from direct contact with harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants or poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), from inhalation of toxic fumes, as well as from accumulation of chemicals in soil, water and food.

The study also indicated that the level of understanding on E-Waste Management procedures such as de-bonding, government approvals and documentation varied across functions within a company.

What can be done?

Experts suggest:

Create more awareness of E-Waste. The government’s e-swachh Bharat programme could go a long way in doing this.
Helping people to understand the importance of recycling
Educating the public – corporate, business, public, government on reducing and extend life of E-Waste
Approach corporates who retire their used electronic good to give it to authorized recycling companies to extend end of life of the system by refurbishing them.

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