Survey finds many residents dispose of e-waste with municipal solid waste

Although it is the technology hub of the country, the awareness for disposal and segregation of e-waste (e-waste) seems to be low in Bangalore.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Center for Sustainable Development, for its Environment Report Card, it was found that most city residents dispose of their e-waste with their municipal solid waste (MSW) within eight areas. Only a few households sell or recycle their electronic waste.

While this was the case for more than 75% of households, in the slums, 3% of respondents said they had thrown their electronic waste in the specific bins set up by the government. The survey which was conducted in over 1,800 households also showed that waste separation, in general, is not occurring effectively in many areas, with Bommanahalli and East areas reporting the lowest numbers ( 10% and 18%, respectively). It is further stated that 2% of MSW consists of electronic goods.

What is electronic waste?

E-waste generally refers to discarded electronic or electrical devices or their components. Smartphones, ordinary cell phones, laptops and computers, washing machines, microwave ovens, DVD players, light tubes and many more.

Ideally, all of these items should be resold, refurbished, or recycled, as the chemicals they contain can be harmful to the environment and living things if not handled properly.

Collection centers have been set up by the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) for the disposal of e-waste. Licenses are also issued to reconditioners, recyclers and dismantlers of electronic waste. There are also several Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs) that work to responsibly recycle e-waste. However, most people tend to dispose of their e-waste through the informal sector, experts say.

“Consumers are used to being paid for their electronic goods because each of them has a monetary value. With the informal sector, the collector comes to the door and even pays the consumer for their electronic waste, which makes it convenient. But the case of electronic waste collection centers is different because most of them are located at some distance from households. However, as these goods are hazardous, informal dismantling may result in personal injury as well as environmental pollution,” explained Shobha Raghavan, COO, Saahas Zero Waste.

She added that even online shopping and the exchange of electronic goods do not consider responsible disposal, as most companies only have their ties with workers and establishments in the informal sector. “For these things to change, collection points need to be brought to consumers’ doorsteps. Urban local authorities (ULB) must provide vehicles for the collection of electronic waste at regular intervals where there is also a price list for each item. This can then be handled by the PROs. This way consumers get paid and the process happens through a formal chain. She also said the setting up of collection points in apartments and larger communities by Residents Welfare Associations (RWAs) could help the cause.

One of the problems is that electronic waste is managed by the KSPCB and not by the ULBs. KSPCB officials said it is not entirely true that e-waste is disposed of with MSW. “We campaign and raise awareness for e-waste disposal through the media and other means. We’ve set up 200 e-waste collection bins across the city and built relationships with RWAs. We are also pushing ULB to increase segregation at source level so that e-waste, bio-medical waste, sanitary waste and all other types are segregated only on collection,” said Srinivasulu, Member-Secretary, KSPCB .

Melissa C. Keyes