The real costs of our gadgets

Do you remember the time when a household television was a permanent fixture in the living room – watched for an hour in the evening as the entire family sat together? With its rather large presence in the room, the T.V saw children growing up, parents growing old and became an important part of the family. Today, however, as television sets become smarter in their operations and sleeker in their looks, they come and go too soon to be able to become part of the family.

Thanks to changes in technology and consumer demand, there is hardly any device now that persists for more than a couple of years in the hands of the original owner.New devices fast replace perfectly well functioning, fairly recent models all the time – be it phones or fridges, TVs or laptops. And all of these become e-waste! The constant technology upgrade and the fast obsolescence of electronic products in a short span of time have contributed to making the e-waste problem in India an acute one.

Electronic waste is a global ecological issue. While many of these products can be refurbished or recycled, electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the country. India’s e-waste crisis poses a greater threat not only due to the generation of its own e-waste but also because of the disposal of e-waste from developed countries here. According to the Environmental Performance Index 2014, India ranks 155 out of 178 countries with regard to e-waste and its performance on environmental issues. It is also the fifth largest generator of e-waste in the world and among the top three Asian countries, after China and Japan.

The results are disastrous. It pollutes the air, water and soil and even data privacy. E- waste is associated with heavy metal derived chemicals which are responsible for a number of serious health disorders. Direct burning of e-waste releases many of these chemicals into the atmosphere which also percolate into soil and ground water systems. These are ultimately absorbed into the food chain, with detrimental long-term impact on the health of people as well as on ecosystems. What’s more, E-waste contains operational devices, which might contain intact data ready to be exploited after discard!

In India, electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream. 44.7 million tonnes of electronic waste was produced worldwide in 2016 – equivalent to the weight of some 4,500 Eiffel Towers. India’s contribution to this was a significant 2 million tonnes!

As consumers, we have the power to change this. We need to give up irresponsible disposal of e-waste to give back to the planet.

Pledge to give up.