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India: Including the Existing Informal Sector in a Clean e-Waste Channel

TitleIndia: Including the Existing Informal Sector in a Clean e-Waste Channel
Publication TypeProceedings Article
Year of Conference2008
AuthorsRochat D, Rodrigues W, Gantenbein A
Conference NameWaste Management Conference (WasteCon2008)
Conference Start Date06.10.2008
Conference LocationDurban, South Africa
Keywordse-waste, India, Informal sector, Material recovery, recycling

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) or e-waste is increasingly generated and processed in India. The waste originates from both national consumption (330’000 t) and waste imports (50’000 t). In India the e-waste processing and recycling is managed almost entirely (95%) by informal recycling businesses. Due to the application of inappropriate techniques, this sector bares high risks of environmental and occupational hazards and also looses valuable materials. Formal recycling industries have to compete with the informal businesses and simultaneously comply with environmental and occupational regulations.

In Bangalore, the IT hub of India, the three newly-born formal recycling industries compete with scrap dealers for the big lots of e-waste from large companies, which result in material flowing into the uncontrolled informal sector. Promoting e-waste disposal policies in companies reduces the amount of e-waste flowing into the informal sector and creates incentives for formalization.

The formalization of the informal sector into a transparent recycling system is crucial for a better control on environmental and human health impacts. In the same time, it bears the advantage to profit from their network, allowing for a better collection system, and preserves the employment generated in the poorest strata of the population.

This paper demonstrates a case study of assistance for the authorisation process with an association of informal dismantlers. Alternate business models guiding the association towards authorisation have been developed, where a city wide collection system feeding the manual dismantling facility and an export strategy towards best available technology facilities to yield higher revenue from printed circuit boards are promoted. By replacing the traditional wet chemical leaching process for the recovery of gold with the export towards integrated smelters and refineries, safer practice and higher revenue per unit of e-waste collected are generated. Further assistance for establishing collection system and for complying with legal requirement will be necessary, as well as monitoring of the recycling processes to ensure their reputation after being authorised.

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