Electronic waste or e-waste is essentially old, end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) that users have discarded. There exists three types of e-waste: White that include refrigerators, washing machines and air-conditioners; Brown that includes televisions, cameras and recorders and Grey that includes computers, laptops, cell phones and printers. Toxic substances like lead, mercury, lithium, cadmium, plastics, nickel, barium, beryllium, chromium etc. form an integral part of e-waste. All of the aforementioned metals have dangerous effects on brain, nervous, blood, reproductive, respiratory and urinary systems.
It is a fact that a tonne of electronic waste can give us hundred times more gold than a tonne of gold ore. It is worth mentioning that today; India is facing a herculean task of disposing its discarded mobiles, fridges, TV sets and computers filled with toxic substances. It is estimated that India has over one billion devices in active use. The average life cycle of phones is about three to four years. In addition, India is today the world’s third-largest producer of e-waste-at 3.2 million tonnes, after China (10 million tonnes) and the USA (6.9 million tonnes). It is estimated that the graph of production of e-waste will be an exponential one. Conclusively, it can be inferred that somewhere there exists a planet-sized dump.
If such waste is not disposed properly, toxic materials will contaminate soil, water, air and will find their way into our food chain. In view of this, modern societies have developed the concept of circular economy, dedicated to reusing, recycling and regeneration. ‘Urban mining’- a name coined by Japanese mineralogist Hideo Nanjyo has become globally popular. The growing volume of electronic waste is overwhelming the informal kabadi industry and threatening our health and environment.
But the challenges of e-waste management can also be a huge opportunity in doing start-ups. Therefore, lets ponder about it.
Deputy Manager (Environment), Corporate Office, NHPC
- India Today- E-waste mounting threat- September 12, 2022.
- E-waste management in India- CSE report, 2020.