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The world produces 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) per year, according to a recent UN report, but only 20% is formally recycled. Much of the rest ends up in landfill, or is recycled informally in developing nations.
India generates more than two million tonnes of e-waste annually, and also imports undisclosed amounts of e-waste from other countries from around the world – including Australia.
India - Conditions - Ourselves - Effects - E-waste
We visited India to examine these conditions ourselves, and reveal some of the devastating effects e-waste recycling has on workers' health and the environment.
More than 95% of India's e-waste is processed by a widely distributed network of informal workers of waste pickers. They are often referred to as "kabadiwalas" or "raddiwalas" who collect, dismantle and recycle it and operate illegally outside of any regulated or formal organisational system. Little has changed since India introduced e-waste management legislation in 2016.
E-waste - Dismantlers - Delhi - Outskirts - Alleyways
We visited e-waste dismantlers on Delhi's outskirts. Along the narrow and congested alleyways in Seelampur we encountered hundreds of people, including children, handling different types of electronic waste including discarded televisions, air-conditioners, computers, phones and batteries.
Squatting outside shop units they were busy dismantling these products and sorting circuit boards, capacitors, metals and other components (without proper tools, gloves, face masks or suitable footwear) to be sold on to other traders for further recycling.
People - Waste - India - Morning - Trucks
Local people said the waste comes here from all over India. "You should have come here early morning, when the trucks arrive with all the waste," a trolley driver told us.
Seelampur is the largest e-waste dismantling market in India. Each day e-waste is dumped by the truckload for thousands of workers using crude methods to extract reusable components and precious metals such as copper, tin, silver, gold, titanium and palladium. The process involves acid burning and open incineration, creating toxic gases with severe health...
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