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Indians largely ignorant of e-waste rules for disposal

Source: National Herald India, Feb 2, 2017

With most Indians unaware of e-waste disposal rules, electronic and electrical equipment continues to be sold to the kabaadiwala and not to the authorised recyclers of e-waste

While e-waste disposal is a global concern, a survey conducted by Toxics Link reveals that few Indians seem aware of either e-waste or about disposal rules notified by the Government in October 2016

While e-waste is a global concern, not too many Indians seem to be aware of either e-waste or about the rules notified by the Government in October, 2016 for disposal of e-waste, reveals a survey conducted by Toxics Link, an environmental research and advocacy organisation.

The survey shows a high level of ignorance with 93, 90, 74 and 52% of respondents in Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru respectively professing ignorance of the rules.

Not surprisingly, therefore, much of the electronic and electrical equipment continue to be sold to the kabaadiwala and not to the authorised recyclers of e-waste.

While India is the fifth largest producer of e-waste in the world, estimated at 1.7 million tonnes in 2014, 90% of it is recycled in sweat shops by the informal sector.

E-waste, explains Priti Mahesh of Toxics Link, is both hazardous and valuable; hazardous because it is toxic and can lead to arsenic or mercury poisoning and valuable because one can find gold, silver, platinum and copper.

The sweatshops at Seelampur in north east Delhi, and on the outskirts of Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh are dealing illegally with thousands of tonnes of e-waste. But people seem to be unaware of the adverse impact it can have on both environment and health.

The survey in fact revealed that while Mumbai leads other metropolitan cities in the awareness of e-waste, most of the respondents from Mumbai seemed to believe that e-waste was largely non-toxic.

The study found that more than 50% people sell their e-waste to kabaadiwalas, a practice known to lead to informal recycling causing harm to humans and environment.

The revised rules make producers responsible for building awareness about e-waste. They also enjoin the consumers to dispose their electrical and electronic equipment to licensed recyclers and producers. But although there are by now 150 licensed units, the bulk of the recycling continues to be done in the organised sector.

“If this is the awareness level in the top five cities, then imagine the situation in smaller towns and cities”, said Priti Mahesh, Chief Program Coordinator, Clean Industry, Toxics Link, adding, “Lack of knowledge regarding the repercussions of improper disposal is leading to most consumers preferring the most convenient disposal route of selling their e-waste—kabaadiwalas or illegal collectors.”

The study found that more than 50% people sell their e-waste to kabaadiwalas, a practice known to lead to informal recycling causing harm to humans and environment.

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