E-Waste Imports to India on the Rise: Report

E-Waste Imports to India on the Rise: Report

A study by India's Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) found that the amount of discarded electronics imported to India is growing 10 percent each year, with 95 percent of that headed toward urban slums for disassembly.

The total amount of India's e-waste imports is projected to reach 434,000 metric tons this year, and about 25,000 people in the country's slums will make up the bulk of the recycling industry there. The report notes that there is almost no oversight or regulation for dismantling used electronics there, which contain toxic substances like lead, mercury and cadmium, and are often disassembled in environmentally and toxic ways.

An exposé that aired last year in the television news program 60 minutes looked at how e-waste recyclers in one city in China will melt electronics over open flames, wearing little to no safety equipment, to harvest the valuable metals contained in the discarded gear.

At the end of last year, Maharashtra state in India drafted new regulations to cover the disposal and recycling of e-waste within the state, which includes the major cities of Mumbai and Pune.

The report out last week coincides with a campaign by mobile phone maker Nokia to collect and responsibly recycle old phones and chargers; that project collected 3 tons of e-waste in 45 days in a pilot project in four Indian cities, according to the Hindu Business Line. While the project is promising, it is barely a drop in the bucket; the DSIR study found that Mumbai alone generates about 25,000 tons of e-waste in a given year.