As most of you know, India has one of the largest clandestine economies in the world. A major part of this revolves around the recycling and reusing of trash collected in junkyards and dumps. The city of Moradabad, located in northern India, receives about half of the total electronic waste (e-waste) generated by India. In its slums, thousands of people live off e-waste. More specifically, they use various techniques to extract different metals from circuits found in phones, televisions, computers, monitors, keyboards, remote controls, radios etc.
In Moradabad, also known as peetal nagri , the brass city, different families are specialized in different steps of the process: some use blow torches to heat the circuits until the soldering breaks down and different parts separate, some dip the pieces in acid, while others simply burn them. Needless to say, the process is hazardous and can be very dangerous, but a day’s work will earn a family around 300 Rupees, which is enough to attract thousands.
However, last April the Indian Government announced a new law that will aim to regulate the e-waste clandestine market in order to reduce pollution derived from such waste. Their goal is to only allow officially licensed facilities to treat e-waste. This could have strong implications for these people as they could be forced to find a new means to subsist, most likely having to migrate elsewhere. According to MAIT, an organization regrouping several large electronics companies, and GTZ, an organization whose purpose is to promote sustainable development on a global scale, over 90% of e-waste generated in India end up in clandestine markets.
Many international companies also look to India when deciding how to rid itself of old electronic equipment. Some do it through said licensed companies to promote a environmentally-responsible image, while others deal with the clandestine market to cut-down costs.
If this law is effective, it should significantly reduce pollution derived from e-waste, but many families will have to find a new way to make ends meet. Ultimately, this will take some time to take effect and many are skeptical in regards to the government’s ability to implement the law and effectively funnel all activities to licensed entities.
- Michael Harroch