NEW DELHI: It is an old computer lying in the house and you have finally decided to sell it to the neighborhood kabari. Don’t do it. Not only is that illegal but also a huge environmental hazard. Chances are that the computer will be dismantled in a small shack somewhere in east Delhi and then its various components will be burnt in a suffocating, dingy room to extract metals, the process releasing poisonous fumes in the air.
The new e-waste rules were notified on May 1, 2012 under which producers of electronics are supposed to take back their goods when they have to be discarded. Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) has authorized 12 agencies for collection of e-waste from across Delhi and there are four authorized recyclers around the capital. However, collecting centres say their work is yet to start.
“It is lucrative for people to sell their e-waste to rag pickers directly since they make more money out of the deal. We are in some sense the middlemen but our role is necessary since recycling can’t take place in the city legally and the four recyclers in north India are located outside Delhi,” said the owner of one company. Another said even among big business houses, only those which had a mandatory environment audit were serious about sending their e-waste to them. “There is massive scope for e-waste collection but no single sector is fully tapped. Individual households have not been touched,” he said.
DPCC has been holding workshops with stakeholders and has also placed collection bins in government offices. Officials accept that despite their sensitization programme, more needs to be done to encourage people to look beyond the economics of selling to a waste picker. “We will carry out a review of how collectors are faring. Based on figures, we will get an idea if the programme is successful. If not, we will have to see what other steps can be taken,” said an official of the environment department.
Priti Banthia Mahesh, senior programme co-coordinator at NGO Toxics Link, says consumerism has increased to such levels that despite making e-waste recycling an illegal activity, the informal sector is still thriving. “In last six months we have seen more and more shops come up in areas where recycling is taking place. Dismantling units are present in Old and New Seelampur, Mustafabad and Shastri Park. Recycling is taking place in areas like Mandoli and Loni. This is largely because there is so much ewaste in the city, much of it untapped,” she said.
Bharati Chaturvedi, director of NGO Chintan, which is an authorized collection agency for e-waste in Delhi, also stressed upon the need to educate individual households on the need to not sell to rag pickers but to authorized agencies.