What do you do with your old PC?
28 May 2006 – 'Buy Intel PC for just 15K ' - advertisements inserted by personal-computer assemblers are found in almost all dailies these days, luring PC buyers.But what they do not know is that these cheap machines are almost totally made of phased-out parts like Intel central processing units, memory chips, hard disk drives, and others, extracted from cheap and obsolete computers that are no longer in use in the West.
Soon over 5 million PCs are going to be obsolete in India. India generates 2.5 million tonnes of e-waste and around 5228 tonnes is being imported illegally. In a single month there is a report of e-waste import up to 48 million tonnes at various custom points in the country.
PC buyers with their shoe-string budgets go for assembled PCs without realising what's inside in it. What they want is but 'the assembled version of a branded one'! And no doubt it's the cheapest way to own a piece of information technology.
For years, computer usage in India had remained low but falling prices and rising incomes have recently led to a surge in demand. Computer sales rose 30 per cent in the year ended March 2006, helped by brisk demand especially from government and mid-size business segments, a market tracking agency said.
More than 4.6 million units were sold during the period, IDC India said in a survey.
Today India has emerged as the largest dumping ground for e-waste for the developed world, especially used computers from the US, Singapore and South Korea. Although the Indian government has prohibited the importing of used computers, they land as donations or charity and there is no specific check to monitor their entry.
The Manufacturers Association for Information Technology (MAIT), representing information technology hardware-makers, expects PC density in India to increase from current 10 per 1000 to 65 per 1000 people. With the increase in purchasing power of the middle class and the rising PC density in India, an emerging concern has been the accumulating electronic waste.
Soon over 5 million PCs are going to be obsolete in India. The number is small compared to the 50 million obsolete computers in the Unites Sates, but represents a growing trend in India.
According to a report on the Indian IT Sector, the rate of obsolescence of computers in India is 2% per week, i.e., in 50 weeks' time the value of the computer is effectively zero.
However Rajendra Kumar, President MAIT denies this. "I think India is still at a nascent stage about e-waste. Since PC penetration is very low, IT hardware waste is much lower in India compared to other countries," says Kumar.
"People use and throw computers (away) in the US, where proliferation is huge but in India where the personal computer penetration is ten per 1,000, this is not a problem. Moreoever in India, the computer you discard today is picked up someone in a smaller town."
However, the cause of worry is - today India has emerged as the largest dumping ground for e-waste for the developed world, especially used computers from the US, Singapore and South Korea.
"Computers and electronic equipments which have completed their life cycle are obsolete in the West arrive in India in huge quantities," says Ravi Aggarwal director of Toxics Links, a non-profit environmental group.
India generates 2.5 million tonnes of e-waste and around 5228 tonnes is being imported illegally. In a single month there is a report of e-waste import up to 48 million tonnes at various custom points in the country.
E-waste recycling is lucrative because electronic equipment has small quantities of valuable material such as gold and copper. Loopholes in law and enforcement are utilised by all parties-the importers, traders and recyclers.
Although the Indian government has prohibited the importing of used computers, they land as "donations" or "charity" and "there is no specific check to monitor (its) entry," says Aggarwal accusing foreign companies of helping Indian importers bypass government regulations to bring in the goods for recyling.
Thr British Environment Agency (BEA) has indicated that there are several companies exporting e-waste from the UK to India, Pakistan and China. As of now, NGOs are carrying out an inventory of e-waste. Like the disposal of medical waste, private sector participation is needed to set up units to handle the huge quantity of e-waste that's being generated. The Central Pollution Control Board, the Government of India's regulatory and monitoring body, continues to deny that e-waste is coming into India.
The awareness on the hazardous effects of e-waste has not yet sunk in, barring a handful of IT and consumer electronics firms. Under its Ozone Initiative, Infosys complies with all legal requirements. It meets and exceeds the ISO 14001 standards for environmental initiatives. But ISO 14001 standards doesnt' have any norms on e-waste and hence IT companies doesn't show serious concern to it."
Unfortunately, it's true that countries such as India and Pakistan are becoming the dumping yards of e-waste from the US and other industrialised nations. e-waste recycling is lucrative because electronic equipment has small quantities of valuable material such as gold and copper. Loopholes in law and enforcement are utilised by all parties-the importers, traders and recyclers.
IT Companies' Reluctant
The IT sector is taking baby-steps towards dismantling e-waste through the organised sector. Since most IT companies are MNCs, they follow double standards when it comes to e-waste management in India, whereas in US, they strickly abide by the envirnoment regulations.
It is true that the e-waste spectrum is broad, but IT companies are the single largest contributors to the growing mountains of it. This is because 30 per cent of their equipment is rendered obsolete every year.
"And IT companies are not fully aware of the implications of unscientific disposal of e-waste. In fact, there is little awareness on the subject of electronic waste across the board. Additionally, the support from the Government is not up to expectations. The draft of the policy and guidelines for e-waste management which are ready are waiting for the approval of the Government," adds Ravi Aggarwal.
The awareness on the hazardous effects of e-waste has not yet sunk in, barring a handful of IT and consumer electronics firms. Under its Ozone Initiative, Infosys complies with all legal requirements. It meets and exceeds the ISO 14001 standards for environmental initiatives. "But ISO 14001 standards doesnt' have any norms on e-waste and hence IT companies doesn't show serious concern to it."
While the government is working on legislation regarding illegal handling of electronic waste, MAIT feels that without the proper infrastructure for scientific and environment-friendly recycling, legislation will not produce results. There are other issues related to e-waste that affect both the hardware industry and the consumer.
Currently, Mumbai tops the list of major cities with e-waste following Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolkata. Even smaller cities such as Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Pune and Surat figure in the list.
The business of disposing electronic waste - or e-waste - is growing as computer usage increases around the world. But with nearly 50 million tonnes of e-waste generated globally each year, analysts say the world supply exceeds current recycling capacity.
It is high time that the Government and port authorities in India implement the Hazardous Waste Rules and check the illegal imports of e-waste at the entry point itself. The need of the hour is to have a policy on e-waste.
FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Basel Action Network is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.