The e-waste market in India is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26% during 2015-2019. Reports show India generates around 13 lakh tonne electronic waste every year. More than 95% of this goes to the informal sector, and end up in landfills or incineration centres.
This is a major concern. As pointed out by Subrata Barman, senior operations officer, International Finance Corporation, “The increase in the use of electrical and electronic equipments, with ever changing technology, has apparently led to a toxic waste stream known as the electronic waste today, which not just harms the environment, but also human health, if disposed mindlessly.”
Collection and disposal of e-waste is emerging as a key challenge, considering that even rural India is a generator of e-waste. There are just 138 formal collectors/dismantlers of e-waste in India, but there is only one end-to-end recycler of e-waste, Attero, registered with the Central Pollution Control Board and the ministry of environment and forests. The sector has ample room for many more players and extensive public-private partnerships. A nationwide programme to sensitise the masses about e-waste management is the need of the hour, along with stringent policies.
Many industry players and NGOs are fighting for the cause with their varied business models and campaigns, including training the last mile collectors (kabadiwallas) in managing ewaste. The e-waste management industry is certainly emerging as a viable business model for budding social entrepreneurs. The government has to supplement these green initiatives by allocating appropriate resources.
In the upcoming budget, the government should allocate at least R500 crore to foster e-waste management initiatives across the country. The fund can be utilised in: collecting old/obsolete electronic products from the consumer, generating awareness among the masses; and building infrastructure for the efficient processing of e-waste.
The author is chief operating officer, Attero