News from Media
Greenpeace says protest led to detain waste,
16 Jun 2008, Times of India
HONG KONG: Three containers with suspected toxic electronic waste from the United States were detained by Hong Kong inspectors after environmental Activists boarded a cargo ship, a campaigner said on Sunday. The activists from Greenpeace placed a giant banner across three containers that said "Toxic Waste Not Welcomed Here" aboard a ship that was due to unload the containers in Hong Kong late Saturday. The e-waste would then have been trucked to nearby Guangdong province in southern China, where it would have been dismantled, Edward Chan, a Greenpeace campaigner said.” The Environmental Protection Department and customs have detained the suspect containers and we hope that they send them back the United States," Chan said, adding the shipment was from a company in Oakland, California.” Hong Kong has always been the transit point for illegal toxic waste into China because there are legal loopholes," he said. Greenpeace had tracked the loading of the waste in California, Chan said. A Hong Kong government spokesman was not immediately available. Southern China has become a world centre for the processing of illegal e-waste, with much of the world's unwanted computers broken down for constituent parts. But without safety precautions, workers are exposed to dangerous fumes from parts such as cadmium, lead and mercury.
Basel waste meeting opens in Indonesia,
23 Jun 2008, Times of India
NUSA DUA: More than 1,000 people from 170 countries gathered on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Monday to discuss the management of waste under the Basel Convention, organisers said. Indonesian Environment Minister Rahmat Witoelar opened the five-day meeting organised by the governing body of the 1992 convention on the generation and movement of waste. The ninth such "Council of the Parties" is scheduled to focus on the impacts of hazardous waste on human health and livelihoods in terms of the UN's millennium development goals, organisers said. It will also include discussions on the disposal of massive amounts of electronic waste such as old mobile phones. Witoelar said Indonesia's long coastline made it particularly vulnerable to the illegal dumping of toxic waste. "Due to its archipelagic nature, with the second longest coastal line in the world, Indonesia is vulnerable to illegal traffic of transboundary hazardous waste," he said. The Basel Convention is an international treaty, which regulates the international trade in hazardous waste and aims to minimize its generation and movement across borders. Participants are expected to adopt a "Bali Declaration" aimed at highlighting the importance of health and waste management for global development strategies such as reducing poverty. "As we are all too often reminded, hazardous wastes continue to pose serious risks for human health and the environment," said Basel Convention Executive Secretary Katharina Kummer Peiry said in a statement ahead of the meeting. "It is especially important that this meeting reaffirms the undeniable interdependence between environmentally sound waste management and the achievement of sustainable development, especially for those who need it the most."
India a thriving global e-waste dump yard,
7 Aug 2008, Times of India
NEW DELHI: If you thought your old outdated PC or television was safely in a junkyard rotting away or being dismantled, think again. A study by a leading environmental group says it is poisoning our soil and water, causing serious health problems. Booming economies like India and China that are increasingly dependent on electronic and electrical equipments have created a new but very dangerous stream of waste, called "electronic-waste", or simply e-waste, says the report brought out by Greenpeace India."Primitive recycling or disposal of e-waste to landfills and incinerators causes irreversible environmental damage by polluting water and soil and contaminating air."
Titled "Take Back Blues - An assessment of e-waste takeback in India", the report showed that in 2007 India generated 380,000 tonnes of e-waste from discarded computers, televisions and mobile phones. This, the report said, was projected to more than double by 2012, to 800,000 per annum with a growth rate of 15 per cent.
"Long-term exposure to deadly component chemicals and metals like lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury and polyvinyl chlorides (PVC) can severely damage the nervous systems, kidney and bones, and the reproductive and endocrine systems, and some of them are carcinogenic and neurotoxic," the report mentions.
"The findings from this study are absolutely shocking. It seems like e-waste takeback in India is in no way a priority for global brands. Otherwise, how else can one explain the irresponsible conduct of brands like Sony, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba, Samsung and Philips, which have no take-back service in India whatsoever?" questions Abhishek Pratap, Greenpeace Toxics campaigner and the principal investigator for the study.
Another campaigner Rampati Kumar believes the only way to tackle this looming threat was to ensure that global and domestic brands manufacture eco-friendly equipment.
"If brands follow the 'cradle to grave' approach by ensuring takeback and bring back responsibility, it might work," he says.
"The solution lies with the brand owners or manufacturers of electronic products, which need to bear responsibility for financing the treatment of the own-branded e-waste discarded by their customers."
Findings from the study reveal that nine of the 20 brands surveyed for their takeback practice have no takeback service in India. The nine named in the report are Apple, Microsoft, Panasonic, PCS, Philips, Sharp, Sony, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba.
Two brands stand out as having the best takeback practice in India - HCL and WIPRO - and have come out publicly in support of e-waste legislation in India.
Positions on this from other brands are not clear. No brand has invested much in education and awareness of general customers on e-waste management.
"As part of HCL's eco safe programme, we give booklets along with our products that address waste disposal and inform customers of take back policies, we also host customer seminars telling them about the importance of electronic waste disposal," George Paul, executive vice-president marketing, HCL Info Systems, said.
He also said that though the company had tied up with government approved recycling bodies to treat the electronic items after they are rendered useless.
"Customers have to incur the cost of giving back the equipment; thus they prefer to sell it to local scrap dealers for a nominal price. Unlike in Europe where once a week the local municipality picks up the electronic waste for a charge levied at the time of purchase of goods, in India the consumer is still at a fairly nascent stage of understanding waste disposal."
Even as India heads for an e-waste crisis, most of the global electronic brands have no functioning e-waste takeback services in India.
The study is yet another effort to sound an alarm and get domestic standards on a par with global environment and health safety norms. Failure, as the report points out, could convert emerging economies into permanent grounds of toxic waste.
Don't dump your comp,
7 Sep 2008, Times of India
BANGALORE: Take a walk down the narrow lanes of Gowripalya, Mysore Road and you are bound to come across piled-up, discarded computers at scrap
dealers' shops. This electronic-waste is dismantled unscientifically by a thriving unorganized sector, to extract whatever is valuable and discard the rest.
What finally makes it to landfills or dump yards is a huge quantity of non-decomposable plastic and other toxic waste that pollutes air, water and soil. But that is not the only concern. Youngsters employed in this high-risk sector are exposed to a host of health hazards. The sector specializes in sourcing e-waste and selling recovered material. An average-scale scrap dealer manages to procure around 20-25 computers per month. In the absence of technical expertise, the work is done without masks, in poorly ventilated enclosed rooms. This results in exposure to dangerous and slow-poisoning chemicals. An ongoing study at St John's National Academy of Health Sciences has found that the average lead level in blood is 35.1 micrograms per deciliter for workers in the organized lead acid battery manufacturing sector. On the other hand, workers in the unorganized sector that recycles e-waste have a significantly higher 92.8 micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood. The study covered workers aged 20-45 years. Ramapathy Kumar of Greenpeace says there is no specific laws for recycling e-waste and large quantities find their way into the dominant unorganized sector. Bangalore generates over 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually and there are just two authorized recyclers. E-Parisara receives just 2-3 tonnes of e-waste a day and Ash Recyclers gets 2-3 tonnes a month. Manohar of Ash Recyclers says around 10 gm of gold can be extracted after recycling 1,000 tonnes of e-waste. It is easier to get gold from old computers than from mines, but the unscientific method used by the unorganized sector poses a threat to environment and health. The Karnataka Pollution Control Board has asked companies generating e-waste to store it within their premises and not dispose it to the raddiwallah. But of the 1,350 IT/BPO/KPO companies in the city, only 50 abide by the rules. Environmentalists say Bangalore should follow the Municipal Corporation of Delhi's model where ragpickers are included on the civic agency's payroll.
Mumbai to have exclusive site for dumping e-waste,
20 Jul 2008, Times of India
MUMBAI: Mumbai, which tops the list in generating the highest amount of electronic waste in the country, is all set to have an exclusive site for dumping e-waste.
Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) officials would be meeting this week to finalise a site exclusively to treat and dump e-waste, MPCB sources said.
Since e-waste management doesn't come directly under the purview of the municipal corporations, MPCB and MMRDA have come forward for this pilot project, the sources said.
A recent study has revealed that Mumbai is not just the leading generator of electronic waste in the country, but also that the rate at which the commercial capital is throwing away electronic goods is far higher than believed so far, the sources said.
The study shows that besides generation of 19,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually - inclusive of computers, televisions, refrigerators and washing machines- Mumbai receives a good amount of it through clandestine imports from the developed world.
The study also indicates that Delhi and adjoining areas are receiving a substantial part of Mumbai's electronic discards, both internal as well as imported, particularly computer printed circuit boards (PCBs) that are too dangerous to be handled in congested areas of Mumbai.
Besides officials of the two organizations, experts on waste management will also attend the meeting, which will dwell on finalizing a site for treating e-waste for the entire Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
MMRDA has also mooted a site for construction and demolition wastes generated through projects implemented by the MMRDA, which is the biggest generator of construction and demolition waste due to its several infrastructure projects.
As there is no separate site for dumping such wastes, the sheer volume of waste generated overburdens the existing landfill sites, the sources said.