In just over a decade, India will have on its hands a whopping 130 million obsolete desktop computers and 900 million laptops to dispose of, a new research paper estimates.

Besides the sheer volume of non-biodegradable material this entails, e-waste involves distinctly hazardous substances such as cadmium, mercury, lead, arsenic and a blend of plastics that are difficult to remove from the environment, says the study published in the latest edition of International Journey of Environmental Technology and Management.

A yawning gap exists already between the ewaste generated in India and its capacity to deal with it. No more than 16 formal e-waste recycling companies exist, with a total installed recycling capacity of just 66,000 metric tonnes, which takes care of less than 10 per cent of the total e-waste produced in the country, says the paper.

While disposal protocols must necessarily be rigorous for e-waste, much of this toxic material is handled and recycled by the unorganised sector, with serious implications for human and environmental health. This assessment, say the authors, aims to serve as a guideline to waste management authorities as they plan facilities to collect, recycle and dispose of ewaste, of which computers account for just a third of the quantum.

They propose that a recycling capacity for 1030 million obsolete PCs be planned by 2025. The researchers looked specifically at computers, which account for a third of all e-waste that is generated in India.

For the study researchers from PEC University of Technology in Chandigarh and Surya World in Patiala used population data to project the market growth and also historical sales data of computers.