Developing countries like India bear the brunt of global e-waste

E-waste dump siteGlobal E-waste Monitor 2017
  • Developing countries like India are receiving e-waste while developed nations are sending it out illegally.
  • Despite having legislation in place, the illegal movement of e-waste happening due to the complex web of transshipment ports.
  • The informal recycling operations result in have severe health impacts and cause environmental damage.
Countries like Australia, China and the United States produce most of the world’s e-waste, but it’s developing countries like India that bear the brunt. India has a massive pile of e-waste of its own but it has also become the dumping ground for other developed countries.

The World Economic Forum highlights the challenges of global e-waste in its ‘A New Circular Vision for Electronics’ report.

A New Circular Vision for Electronics, WEF


The report asserts that as the use of technology grows, so do the threats concerned with e-waste. One of the biggest being the illegal movement of e-waste from developed countries to their developing counterparts.

The complex web of transshipment ports makes detection of e-waste by authorities a considerable hurdle. Nearly 1.3 million tonnes of discarded electronic products make their way out of the European Union without documentation.

Clearing up the legislation

E-waste, or electronic waste, refers to all electronic equipment that’s been discarded by users with no intentions of reuse. This includes everything from smaller items like lamps and phones to larger appliances like televisions, refrigerators and washing machines.

Countries like India, one of the most populous in the world, at least have legislation in place attempting to counteract the problem. In comparison, only a handful of nations in Africa have some sort of policy to deal with e-waste.

But having a policy in place doesn’t necessarily imply the successful enforcement of guidelines or the existence of sufficient e-waste management systems.

The ‘Global E-waste Monitor 2017’ reported that informal recycling operations have been in place for a long in India but they have severe health impacts and cause environmental damage.

Clarifying international guidelines for re-integrating discarded technology into new products is only one possible way to negate the negative externalities of e-waste. The market for refurbished phones in India is on the rise but shipment of used products is still to legislative uncertainty.

The WEF propagates that creating a e-waste circular economy would keep materials and electronic components at their highest value at all times. This doesn’t only have to do with recycling e-waste but also designing products in way that supports reuse, durability and eventually safe recycling.

80% of e-waste isn’t documented and only 41 countries around the world have official statistics on e-waste in order to monitor the situation.

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