SUMMARY: Our strategy is to prevent extreme pollution from increasing volumes of poorly handled electronic-waste by transforming current practices through a systems approach. We link fragmented actors as a chain to develop multiple capacities and leadership, resulting in safe recycling, not dumping of E-Waste, augmented green livelihoods for wastepickers and community.
PROBLEM SPACE: The digital era makes the world smaller, but significantly more polluted. Electronic waste (or E-Waste), a by-product of this age, is highly toxic. Typically, it is burned or dumped. In India, use of E-Waste has increased 7 times in 8 years. Three problems arise. Environmental Contamination: Nearly 95% of this is recycled via crude processes such as open burning, cyanide and acid application, releasing dioxins, furans, heavy metals. This irreversibly harms workers and the environment. Poor Implementation of Law: Recognizing this potential crisis, India declared new E-Waste Handling Rules in 2012. Its success is predicated upon collecting E-Waste from the point of generation. This includes households, small offices, schools-sites which lack the culture of traveling to dispose of waste but unserviced, as they are considered too small to be economically viable by large companies. Livelihood Loss: Informal waste pickers and collectors — a strong developing economy phenomenon — buy E-Waste and sell it for crude recycling. Diverting E-Waste will impact their livelihoods and push them deeper into poverty. They must be part of the solution. All these trends are seen across low and middle income countries.
SOLUTION: Our initiative is located in India’s biggest E-Waste hotspot, the national capital region of Delhi. It is based on the premise that electronic waste, already a problem but not yet a crisis, can be diverted from being a toxic terror to a resource to fight poverty. To do this, Chintan follows a bottoms-up approach that takes advantage of the existing law and local human resources bordering on poverty. It trains locally embedded informal sector for collecting E-Waste, reaches out to waste generators to explain the problem and their role in its solution via a partnership with Chintan, sets up collection drives, holds and inventories the E-Waste in its legally authorized collection centre, before dispatching it to authorized recyclers. Chintan’s work is designed to nurture diverse partnerships. On one hand, these form a web of support for this process innovation and on the other, the strong team at Chintan builds their technical capacity to ensure safety protocols are followed locally. Thus, Chintan has reached. This waste no longer reaches crude recovery facilities, but is carefully recycled, preventing pollution and augmenting livelihoods.
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