Despite being the technological hub of the country, awareness about the disposal and segregation of e-waste (electronic waste) seems to be low in Bengaluru.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Centre for Sustainable Development, for its Environment Report Card, it was found that most residents in the city threw away their e-waste along with their regular municipal solid waste (MSW) across all eight zones. Only a few households either sell or recycle their e-waste.
While this was the case with over 75% of households, in slums, 3% of respondents said they dumped their e-waste in the specific bins set up by the government. The survey which was conducted in over 1,800 households also showed that waste segregation, in general, is not happening effectively in many zones with Bommanahalli and East zones reporting the least numbers (10% and 18%, respectively). It is further stated that 2% of MSW is made up of electronic goods.
What is e-waste
E-waste generally refers to discarded electronic or electrical devices or their components. Smartphones, ordinary mobile phones, laptops and computers, washing machines, microwave ovens, DVD players, tube lights and many more.
Ideally, all of these items should either be resold, refurbished or recycled as the chemicals used in them can be hazardous to the environment and living beings if not processed properly
Collection centres have been set up by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) for the disposal of e-waste. Licences are also issued to refurbishers, recyclers, and dismantlers of e-waste. There are also several Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO) working to responsibly recycle e-waste. However, most people tend to discard their e-waste via the informal sector, experts say.
“Consumers are used to getting paid for their electronic goods as each one of them has a monetary value. With the informal sector, the collector comes to the doorstep and even pays the consumer for their e-waste, making it convenient. But the case with e-waste collection centres is different as most of these are located at a certain distance from households. However, since these goods are hazardous, informal dismantling can lead to personal injuries as well as environmental pollution,” explained Shobha Raghavan, COO, Saahas Zero Waste.
She added that even online shopping and exchange of electronic goods does not account for responsible discarding as most companies have their tie ups with informal sector workers and establishments only. “For these things to change, collection points need to be brought to the doorstep of the consumers. Urban local bodies (ULB) should arrange for vehicles to pick up e-waste at regular intervals where there is also a price list for each item. This can then be processed through PROs. This way, consumers get paid and the process happens through a formal chain.” She also said that setting up collection points in apartments and big communities by resident welfare associations (RWA) could help the cause.
One of the problems is that e-waste is handled by the KSPCB and not ULBs. KSPCB officials said it is not entirely true that e-waste is being disposed of with MSW. “We are running campaigns and creating awareness about e-waste disposal through media and other means. We have set up 200 e-waste collection bins across the city and have tied up with the RWAs. We are also pushing the ULBs to increase segregation at the source level so that e-waste, biomedical waste, sanitary waste, and every other kind is separated during collection only,” said Srinivasulu, member-secretary, KSPCB.