Electronic waste has rightly been identified as one of the biggest potential environmental disasters. With the world producing 40 million tonnes of e-waste every year, and this figure growing at an alarming rate, the need for escalating sustainable e-waste recycling is greater than ever before.

Attero Recycling and International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank arm, have tied up to start a ‘Clean e-India’ initiative across Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad.

About 1.5 million people would be impacted by this project, that aims to bring together all stakeholders — producers of electronic equipment, bulk consumers, Government agencies, NGOs and civil society.

IFC has invested $5 million to help Attero develop a range of recycling assets.

Nena Stoiljkovic, Vice-President, IFC Advisory Services, said that bringing the informal sector into the fold of formal recycling is a challenge.

In India, about 95 per cent of e-waste recycling is handled by the unorganised sector which, unfortunately, is not equipped with the technology or the capital to undertake recycling in an environment-friendly and safe manner. However, under this project, which will run over three-and-half years, ragpickers will be trained and their work integrated with Attero’s recycling facilities.

Further, 15 electronic goods manufacturers, including Samsung, HCL, Videocon, Haier and Philips, have signed up with this initiative, as undertaking recycling on their own is untenable.

IT and Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said that, when western countries ask developing countries such as India to open trade doors, one must remember that the technology manufacturers also have the responsibility to manage the markets they get access to, and the waste produced as a result.

India produces about 8 lakh tonnes of e-waste every year. The UN estimates that by 2020 e-waste generated from computers will shoot up by 500 per cent in India, spelling disaster for the country unless proper management is undertaken.

(This article was published on April 9, 2013)
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