Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Scraping the E-scrap
We live in the Electronic Era. Our lives consist of wires and rays. Computers have revolutionalised the way we think, work and live. Everything is just a click away. In the light of economic development, users and usage of computers is increasing. Life without TV or computer seems a nightmare. But this nightmare may become a reality if we continue ignoring our Environment. Economic Development and Environment Conservation does not go hand in hand. Environment is seen as a hurdle for achieving economic success and so is often ignored. It’s only when the situation becomes out-of-control that the poor Environment gets some light. The e-scrap or e-waste of our e-world is not environment-friendly.
E-scrap refers to the discarded old and broken electronic devices. They are non bio-degradable. When they are not disposed properly, they harm the Environment as they contain toxic substances such as lead, cadmium, nickel, antimony etc.
E-scrap is imported to India illegally as the other countries don’t want to take the risk involved in recycling it. After China banned the import of e-scrap, India has emerged to be the World’s e-scrap dumping ground. In India, e-scrap is not handled properly. They are treated in informal and unorganised scrap yards. The workers are not trained. They don’t wear any mask and so are exposed to dangerous chemicals. It has adverse effects on their health. Nickel leads to skin damages and asthma. Antimony leads to heart and fertility problems. Breathing high levels of cadmium can lead to severe lung damages and can cause death. Lead affects the nervous system. They try to retrieve metals from the equipments. They burn these equipments which then release dangerous gases into the atmosphere. Land filling is another way of disposal. It’s not safe either. Chemicals present in e- scrap like, mercury, lead, cadmium or plastics are dumped on the ground. These chemicals then pollute soil and underground water. Landfills are generally unorganized. E-scrap is often dumped in open grounds.
E-scrap management is under the informal sector. But in recent years, Government has tried to improve things. It has instituted a number of regulations for management of e-scrap but they have been ineffective. There is only one Government-run e-scrap Recycling System in India. Fortunately, some private companies are taking charge of managing the e-scrap. Manufacturers like Wipro, HCL, Nokia, Acer, and Motorola have initiated recycling of their products. Wipro has 17 collection centres, HCL has 500 and Nokia has 1,300 collection bins.
But e-scrap recycling in a proper manner is still meagre. The main sector handling it remains the ignorant scrap-dealers who have no technology to handle e-scrap. The Government should enforce a law that makes it compulsory for the manufacturers of the Electronic goods to take responsibility for their recycle. A Government official should visit scrap yards to make sure the working conditions are proper and that the workers are wearing masks. We, as individuals, can do our part by handing our e-scrap to authorised recycling systems. Dell is one company which can recycle e-scrap without charging any fee. Get the electronic device repaired if possible. Try not to dispose it. We can also donate it to someone who needs it. She/he can get it repaired. We should make efforts or one day we’ll suffocate in our own scrap.