Freedom 251 – A Digital Or a More Polluted India?

Recently, India witnessed another Tata Nano moment, as a new smartphone called Freedom 251 was launched for 251 Rs (hence the name). This launch got people all over the country excited and the day the registration took place, it got sold out quicker than one would take to kill a bugging mosquito (most apt Indian scenario example). This is however not an article to praise the launch and the new release but to look at it from another perspective.

India is one of the largest market for smartphones, tablets, and practically anything that gets you online. But its nothing to boast about unless you are a smartphone manufacturer. And its something to worry about if you know the current waste scenario of the country. The current practise of the fast moving e-waste disposal is nothing close to the proper or the ideal disposal treatment e-waste should be subjected to. With the dropping prices, the days are long gone when we used to guard the previously used phones to use it in need, because c’mon you can get a phone for 251 Rs, why would you even care about disposing it off and going through all that trouble.So instead it directly goes to the landfill, or even worse gets disposed off in an unorganised manner.

E-Waste Scenario in the Country

Increased usage of gadgets, telecom, information and technology and appliances is collectively creating nearly 13 lakh tonnes of eWaste annually in India according to an August 2014 report by the industrial body ASSOCHAM. The report also highlighted that Delhi-NCR, Mumbai and the IT capital of India, Bengaluru collectively produce over 2 lakh tonnes of eWaste per year. Another January 2015 report from Markets and Research has forecast that the Indian eWaste market will grow at 26.22% CAGR during 2014-2019. However, with so much electronic waste being generated in the country, a major portion is handled by the informal or unorganized sector using improper processes, which leads to environmental pollution and health hazards

India – A Popular Destination for e-waste?

Much of the 40 million tonnes of electronic waste produced around the world — old smartphones, TVs, laptops and obsolete kitchen appliances — finds its way illegally to Asia and Africa every year, says a report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).Close to 90 per cent of the world’s electronic waste — worth nearly $19 billion — is illegally traded or dumped each year, to destinations half way across the world. While the European Union the U.S. and Japan are the primary origins of e-waste shipments, China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan are the main destinations, says the report. In Africa, Ghana and Nigeria are the biggest recipients of e-waste.

No Scope for Improvement?

Well, there is still a scope for improvement. Norway faced a similar challenge few years back, and introduction of EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility), which in simple way means that the manufacturer of these products were responsible for financing the e-waste recycling infrastructure as well. This system could be implemented in India as well, but there has to be a strict check imposed on implementation of these rules as well.

Solid waste is gaining some popularity, thanks to NaMo’s Clean India Campaign but India has a long way to go before e-waste and other “unpopular” waste streams are brought to attention as well!




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