We live in a technological age, with almost every member of the family having some kind of electronic item (common being the smartphone) in their possession; from smartwatches to Smart TVs we have it all. Ever wondered how your older devices and electronic junks are being disposed or rather managed.

What is E-Waste?

The term E-Waste is pretty self-explanatory, it’s the electronic waste that is generated by electronic products and their components, which are rendered useless for their desired purpose or are way past their expiry date. These include computers, servers, mainframes, monitors, compact discs (CDs), printers, scanners, copiers, calculators, fax machines, battery cells, cellular phones, transceivers, TVs, iPods, medical apparatus, washing machines, refrigerators, and air conditioners, earphones, headphones, microwaves and so the list continues.

With rapid growth and development in the IT and communication sector, the shelf life of the products are being decreased and people are quickly replacing their old equipment for newer ones thus piling on to the ever increasing electronic waste stream.

India is the third largest e-waste generator, just behind US and China according to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020. In India, Mumbai ranks first in generating e-waste followed by Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad, Pune, Surat and Nagpur according to the research paper on Electronic Waste and India, Dr. S. Chatterjee, Scientist-E, Department of Information Technology.

What are the harmful effects of E-Waste?

The ill effects of irresponsible disposal of E-Waste can have a hazardous impact on human health as well as the ecology. It could leach into the soil from landfills thereby polluting the soil and water, including underground water, wells, lakes and other water sources.

Improper burning of the said waste leads to air pollution, due to emission of these gases into the atmosphere there by causing further health problems.

If the recycling is not done the correct way, it can pose a threat to human health by breathing in the toxic fumes while disposing; skin problems for the workers in contact with hazardous by products of these substances (like lead, cadmium, mercury etc.).

Main Sources of E-Waste:

Now, the primary sources of E-Waste in India are government, public and private industrial sector amounting to a 70% contribution, whereas, the household and unserviceable appliances, educational institutes and corporate sector add a total of 15% and the rest (15%) is shouldered by the manufactures and retail shops discarded products.

Majority of the E-Waste junk consist of television (68%), desktop, servers (27%), imports (2%) and mobile (1%).

Despite 23 units currently registered with Govt. of India, Ministry of Environment and Forest / Central Pollution Control Board, as E-Waste recyclers / pre-processors the entire recycling process more or less still exists in the unorganized sector.


How to dispose of E-Waste in an effective way:

Giving your electronic junk to the kabadiwala (scrap dealer), although may sound convenient but that’s a bad idea. The informal/ unauthorised sector are not only ill-equipped but don’t follow the regulatory safety standards. So, what should one do with these ever piling mountain junks?

The major R’s for plastic may work wonders here as well,

Reuse: Try using your gadgets as long as you can. Upgrade to a better electronic product only when necessary and not for style. If you don’t mind using a second hand model do so.

Repair: Treasure those warranty and guarantee cards and adhere to repair policies. It would be even better if you can enquire about them.

Recycle: Companies and online retail websites provide exchange offers during discount season, do avail them and ask for it whenever possible. It not only reduces the junk from your home but also eliminates the risk of disposal by an amateur. Moreover, you can further enquire about how they will dispose these items.

Research: Its a must, check the box of the new device to see the e-waste instruction, they are always there. Use the toll free number provided by manufacturers to further enquiry regarding managementRegistered collection organisations that provide these services can be used for these as well.