When it comes to e-waste, despite new rules, the city suffers from a lack of structured collection network.

TVs, washing machines and computers may be a part of most city households, but Chennai has not figured out a structured way to collect discarded household electronic equipment – collectively called e-waste — which needs to be disposed of properly. E-waste contains toxins that can leech out over several years and when e-waste mixes with municipal waste, as it often happens, remediation could be practically impossible.

In the absence of a structure, waste paper shops have doubled as e-waste handlers. E-waste could be good business for these shops. A kilo of copper scrap is priced at Rs. 350–Rs. 400 and aluminium scrap at Rs. 110-130 a kg.

The city’s unofficial e-waste recyclers are the open air sweat shops on the bylanes of Pudupet. “If the wires are burnt, the copper and aluminium scrap sells for less. Though stripping by hand is laborious, it pays more,” said a scrap dealer, who did not want to be named.

“Recycling infrastructure still has not improved. There are just 19 approved facilities in the State, which is nothing compared to what is being produced. You still find e-waste in regular garbage. There has to be a sensible authority, which takes the legislation and translates it into something meaningful for the environment and the health of the people,” said Shweta Narayan, coordinator, Community Environment Monitoring.

The sensible authority would have to be the Corporation, activists say. Residents should be able to go to a civic body office and hand over their e-waste.

The E-waste Handling and Management Rules, 2011 came into force in 2012, and, recently, the TNPCB adopted the e-waste rules under the Environment Protection Act.

The rules stress upon making equipment manufacturers take responsibility for their e-waste, but a lacuna is that they can do so only if the buyer gives their discarded equipment to them. “We heard that the Andhra Pradesh government has asked manufacturers to set up collection centres all over the State. In Taiwan, a small amount is collected for recycling when the product is sold and that amount is sent to the government, which releases it when the goods are recycled by another agency,” said an e-waste specialist.

My Chennai My Right, an inititative by The Hindu

Send us pictures of extreme instances of garbage affecting normal life in Chennai.

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