E-Waste: A Masked Threat to the Environment

Posted on April 11, 2010 in unEarthed

Mohnish Bagree:

Scientists and researchers are rigorously discovering new pollutants and inventing means to curb environmental pollution today. With a worrisome situation of climate change, a lot of resources are being re-directed to solving the problems of today for a better future. But there is one pollutant that remains under communicated and thus, may be imperceptible — It’s electronic waste.

Electronic waste is described as useless, obsolete and discarded electrical or electronic devices. It is considered a major threat because of ineffective and insufficient methods of its disposal and the chemical contaminants present in it. India is a young nation as far as the industrial revolution is concerned and yet e-waste has accumulated at an unexpected pace in our country.

The electronic industry is world’s largest and fastest growing manufacturing industry. During the last decade, it has assumed the role of providing a forceful leverage to the socio – economic and technological growth of a developing society. The consequence of its consumer oriented growth combined with rapid product obsolescence and technological advances, make for a new environmental challenge. Solid waste management, which is already a mammoth task in India, is becoming more complicated by the invasion of e-waste, particularly computer waste. E-waste from developed countries finds an easy way into developing countries in the name of free trade.

The major source of such hardware is China. Its market provides all sorts of duplicate devices ranging from mobile phones to computer keyboards and has penetrated deep into the Indian market because of their low-cost and look-alike features. Be it any technology, its replica is available and youngsters buy it to serve their needs of flaunt with modern sophisticated gadgets. But it is a fact that they are generally of far inferior quality and do not last long. Thus, although such supply meets for the kind of demand electronic devices have today, it leads to a larger amount of waste for devices that are not quite serving their true purpose.

Another factor contributing to increase in e-waste is piracy. Pirated material is sold cheaper and is more easily available, hidden from the eyes of authorities. In India, pirated CDs, cassettes and other things are available along with original and hence add to already existing problems of e-waste. Even recycling this waste is a big problem in India. The UNEP report “Recycling — from E-Waste to Resources” was released on the Indonesian island of Bali on February 22, 2010 at the start of a week-long meeting of officials and environmentalists. According to the report’s authors by 2020 e-waste in South Africa and China will have jumped by 200-400 per cent from 2007 levels and by 500 per cent in India. India produces about 3, 80, 000 tonnes of e-Waste per annum, which includes only the waste generated out of television sets, mobile phones and PCs, a major chunk of which comes from organizations. E-waste produced in India includes over 100,000 tonnes from refrigerators, 275,000 tonnes from TVs, 56,300 tonnes from personal computers, 4,700 tonnes from printers and 1,700 tonnes from mobile phones. The un-organized recycling sector which fails to practice eco-friendly e-Waste recycling methods release large amount of toxic chemicals.

Till date there are no definite e-waste regulations in India to control the management of e-waste. While not relying on technology to recycle it, we can still reduce e-waste to a certain amount with some simple measures. When buying a mobile phone, try to make it a one-time investment serving most of your needs so that you can use it for a long period, cutting down on e-waste. Most of us are in the habit of switching to new devices as soon as it hits the market and dump the previous one. But there will never be dearth of new things and we should make the choice of effectively using present devices until they are out of order or the technology is no longer serving the professional and personal needs. Also try relying on originals rather than getting lured by duplicate products. They have proven to be unreliable time and again. Although this a small step, it will go a long way in increasing awareness about the harmful effects of e-waste.

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gary

when we will grow as a nation and will learn etiquites and cleanliness.

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