This initiative trains waste pickers in India to collect electronic waste, such as computers and mobile phones, for safe disposal and recycling. By recycling raw materials from discarded electronics, natural resources are conserved and air and water pollution caused by hazardous disposal is avoided. Recycling e-waste from landfills reduces methane emissions, which are 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. The initiative makes the waste pickers more resilient to poverty by providing green jobs that increase their incomes and protect them from the risks of exposure to toxins and heavy metals.
- More than 2,000 waste pickers have been trained to collect e-waste for safe disposal and recycling
- The initiative negotiates for the best rates from recycling companies so that waste pickers can earn more money, increasing their incomes by 10-30%
- More than 17 tonnes of e-waste is collected each year, preventing the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. E-waste that is not recycled contributes to about 4.25% of the greenhouse emissions
Informal waste pickers help clean up India’s cities by recycling approximately 20% of the waste generated. However, these waste pickers still do not have formal recognition, equal rights, secure and safe livelihoods and dignity. And as consumption patterns change with a growing economy, their work exposes them to ever higher levels of pollution and dangerous toxins.
According to a UN report, India is the world’s fifth largest producer of e-waste, discarding almost 1.7 million tonnes of e-waste in 2014. Almost 95% of the e-waste it produces is either burned or dumped in landfills. With rapid urbanization, this will only multiply—as will the number of people handling it at considerable risk to their health. Managing waste, ensuring sustainable consumption and a healthy environment, and ensuring just and safe working conditions for waste pickers are urgent challenges.
Chintan, an Indian NGO, in cooperation with Delhi’s Pollution Control Committee and the city’s Department of Environment, created a partnership with Safai Sena, a registered association of waste pickers to improve collection, segregation and storage of e-waste. They then joined forces with companies in India that safely recover metals and plastics from e-waste.
The initiative trains waste pickers to collect e-waste using safe e-waste handling practices to reduce their exposure to dangerous toxins. After it is collected, the e-waste is safely stored at Chintan’s authorized collection center and sent to recyclers for safe disposal/recycling.
Heping the planet
By recycling raw materials from discarded electronics, natural resources are conserved and air and water pollution caused by hazardous disposal is avoided.
Recycling e-waste from landfills reduces methane emissions, which are 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Recycling instead of producing new materials will also reduce overall energy consumption, avoiding direct greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing the environmental impact of natural resources extraction.
By diverting about 17 tonnes of e-waste to recycling centers each year, this project is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the waste pickers collect e-waste in non-motorized vehicles. This means collection and transportation of e-waste is emission-free.
In Delhi alone, more than 25,000 people earn a living from e-waste handling, collection, dismantling and metal extraction.
Chintan works in partnership with waste pickers, itinerant buyers and small scrap dealers. More than 2,000 waste pickers have been trained on how to deal with e-waste in a safe manner. Electronic waste that is typically burned or dumped in a landfill is now instead collected directly from households, schools and businesses and recycled safely.
The initiative also negotiates for the best rates from recycling companies for e-waste, so that waste pickers can earn more money. This has increased their incomes by 10-30%.
Many countries, such as Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand and Ghana, also produce a considerable amount of e-waste and are also served by waste pickers for waste handling. Therefore, there is a huge potential not only to give these waste pickers sustainable livelihood but also work towards generating more awareness on better e-waste practices.
The E-Waste: From Toxic to Green initiative can serve as a model to help other countries recycle e-waste and fight poverty. As Chintan’s model of handling e-waste is highly replicable due to its low cost, it can be adopted by other cities and countries where e-waste involves significant risk to workers, communities and the environment.
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