Chennai generates 300 metric tonnes of e-waste every day

Over 2 million tonnes of waste from electronic devices and components (e-waste) was generated in the country last year, according to a study by the United Nations. However, very little has been done to dispose it safely. Despite the E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016, experts said that lack of implementation is resulting in toxic e-waste ending up in the marshlands, polluting the environment.
Chennai generates 300 metric tonnes of e-waste every day
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Mathew Jose of Paperman, an organisation working with electronic brands to deal with the disposal of the products after their lifecycle, said that e-waste accounts for an approximate 5 per cent of annual waste generation. “Chennai generates close to 6,000 metric tonnes of solid waste per day, out of which 5 per cent (300 metric tonnes) is e-waste, which ends up being dumped in the marshland in Pallikarnai or Perungudi or Kodungaiyur. This e-waste is being burnt, resulting in toxins entering our waterbodies and groundwater sources,” he said.
Implementation is a huge challenge, said Jose. “We do not have a vision when it comes to waste management. For example, we do not have a body or organisation, which has a vision to change e-waste management over the next ten years. Organising random collection drives will not work. Society, bureaucrats and the government should work together,” added Mathew, who has been engaging with brands, encouraging them to extend producer responsibility to buy back used products and dispose them through a formal recycler.
Policy expert Dharmesh Shah said that there’s hardly a dent made in the implementation of the E-waste rules. “Majority of the e-waste is being recycled by the informal sector, hazardously. Most of these units are backyard operations, without proper safety mechanisms. The motherboard has precious metals and to extract this, you need heavy acids. These operations are illegal, according to regulations, but as with many other laws, it is not implemented,” he said. Shah added that it is mandated by the laws for the companies to buy back these used products and set up logistics. “The E-waste rules speak about extended producer responsibility (EPR), where the producer is responsible for buying back products after use, for safe disposal. When companies can have home delivery when a customer buys their products, why can’t a similar pick up service be arranged for returning used products? These products can be disposed through a formal recycler,” he said.
  • All the countries in the world together generated a staggering 44.7 million metric tonnes (MT), or an equivalent of 6.1 kilogram per inhabitant (kg/inh), of e-waste annually in 2016, compared to the 5.8 kg/ inh generated in 2014.
  • This is equivalent to nearly 4,500 Eiffel Towers, each year
  • The amount of e-waste is expected to increase to 52.2 million metric tonnes, or 6.8 kg/inh, by 2021
  • In Asia, the total e-waste generation was 18.2 MT in 2016 China generates the highest e-waste quantity both in Asia and in the world (7.2 MT) India generated 2 MT, and Japan 2.1 MT.

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