India, the e-wasteland
"Computers and electronic equipments which have completed their life cycle and are obsolete in the West have started arriving in India and the entire South Asian market in huge quantities," says Ravi Agarwal director of Toxics Link, a not-for-profit environmental group, adding that after China started clamping down on import of electronic waste by banning it last year, India has emerged as the largest dumping ground of e-waste for the developed world.
India's poor tackle toxic e-waste
According to Toxic Links, "although hard numbers are difficult to come by since most of the imports are illegal," close to 40,000 tons of used electronic equipments are dumped in India every month, much of which, according to Greenpeace International, end up contaminating the country's environment with toxic organic compounds and metals.
Indeed imports of obsolete electronic equipment that have been discarded for recycling in the "developed world" (read: the United States and Europe) have become a lucrative business in developing countries like India. But the problem is that with authorities paying no heed to the influx of tons of toxic e-waste along with lax local laws, India is also turning into a deadly dumping ground that is threatening to be catastrophic over the next few years if left unaddressed.
...The two largest nations shipping their e-wastes out are the United States and Britain. According to a recent British Environmental Protection Agency report, Britain exported 25,000 tons of e-waste to South Asia last year.
The United States bought a staggering $125 billion worth of electronic goods in 2005 and reportedly for every PC the country bought, one was discarded. BK Soni, the founder of Mumbai-based Infotrek Systems, an electronic equipment recycling company, claims that in 2005 the United States recycled just about $2 billion worth of electronic equipment, "but that may be just 20 percent of the e-waste it generated, much of which found its way to India, China and other South East Asian countries, and now, more recently in Africa."
...the biggest reason for dumping is purely economic.
Toxic Links has calculated that it costs about $20 to recycle a PC in the United States, whereas unscrupulous Indian importers pay up to $15 each for buying them out. "That means a net gain of $35 for a U.S. recycler," says Agarwal, "so why should a recycler in the U.S. even take the trouble of recycling PCs there?"