Only 10-15 percent of total e-waste generated in the city goes to the formal dealers. The high costs of e-waste has increased the dependency on informal dealers for the public.
Khadir Pasha owns an e-waste recycling company named E-friendly waste recyclers and has been in the business for twenty years now. However, in his entire life, he has never seen a profit so low. “Competition has increased a lot. It is even difficult to get out the amount we put in,” confesses Khadir.
This is not Khadir’s story alone. Many other formal dealers like Khadir suffers through the same fate as a large chunk of e-waste generated in the city goes in the hands of informal dealers.
Mehboob, who works as an e-waste dismantler describes the process of dismantling e-waste. He says, “I am working here for seven years. We separate all the components in an e-waste we get from computers etc. Like, we extract copper from IC. There is a machine that processes it. We scrap it and then sell it.” His day begins with the unloading of e-waste and ends with a huge pile of segregated e-waste at his footsteps.
Mehboob and his co-workers work under a licensed organisation in Nayandahalli. The matter of e-waste recycling then seems efficient and smooth. However, the truth is something else. Out of the 4500MT e-waste generated per day in the city, only 10-15 percent of it is treated by legalised formal dealers and handlers. The rest is taken care of by the unlicensed recyclers.
While mentioning the reasons behind why people opt for informal dealers, Khadir added, “Informal dealers give good rates and high prices for the e-waste. That is why people prefer to go to them. We also give good rates but they give an extra amount.”
Khuddus Khan, manager of K.S.F. Traders, an another formal e-waste recycling company in Nayandahalli said, “Every organisation has different capacity. Whatever is appropriate to the public among all options, they go for it.” He added, “Earlier, even one lakh rupees was enough. Now, one lakh has been converted to one crore. We do not have that much capacity. Thus, we run a small business.”
The centre introduced E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules in 2011 that mandates authorization of dealers and recyclers of e-waste. However, even after ten years of its implementation, due to high cost and lack of awareness, the big companies often tend to hand off their generated e-waste to non-licensed recyclers. In return, they get higher prices for their waste as compared to any formalized recycler.
The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, in its latest report on e-waste generation in 2020-21 revealed that Bangalore alone generated 4661.3070 MT of information technology and telecommunication equipment and 3353.29095 MT of consumer electrical and electronics.
The State Pollution Control Board is planning to convert these unlicensed workers into the formalised sector. Rudresh Murthy, Environmental Officer, KSPCB said, “We are trying to bring the informal sector with the formal one. It is slowly increasing and will take some time. From last four-five years, there are almost 40-50 informal recyclers who have been converted to the formal.”
When the e-waste is handed over to informal dealers, the remaining extract is often disposed off in the open. This poses a threat not just to the environment but the people living around. The harmful metals like nickel, cadmium and mercury often enters the bloodstreams of children and women playing and working nearby. As many as 12.9 million women are working in the informal waste sector, which potentially exposes them to toxic e-waste and puts them and their unborn children at risk.
Sandeep Anirudhan, an environmentalist talked about how e-waste dumped in the open affects the environment. He said, “E-waste has a fairly longer impact. These are basically pollutants that did not break down. These contaminate our food cycle, water cycle, ground water and rivers. People just collect their garbage and dump it in the open. So basically, what is happening now is about 95 percent of the generated e-waste is going into landfills and other places.”
Many residents in Bangalore tend to hand over their e-waste to informal dealers as to skip the formalities and get rid of it as early as possible. Not everyone is conscious to what happens afterwards. But some citizens like Sonia Sharma, a resident of Banashanakari are concerned about the issue and work in collaboration with respective PROs like Saahas zero waste to mandate the efficient disposal of e-waste to formal recyclers and dismantlers.