The city has taken active steps to collect and recycle its electronic waste. A report by city-based NGO Stree Mukti Sanghatana states that from August 2015 to January 2017, more than 12,866kg of e-waste was prevented from being disposed of at Mumbai’s overburdened dumping grounds. Fifteen schools and colleges, seven housing complexes and five private commercial complexes organised weekly collection drives and sent their e-waste to the NGO.
The NGO collects and carries out basic waste segregation with the help of Parisar Bhagini Vikas Sangh (PBVS) - a federation that comprises more than 1,000 women rag pickers from across Mumbai who earn between Rs200 to Rs500 daily.
The city currently produces 8,600 tons of waste — including dry, organic, electronic and biomedical waste — daily. Of this, the Deonar dump — the city’s largest — receives approximately 23.50%, Kanjur 35.30% and Mulund, 41% according to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
E-waste contains hazardous material — such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and barium — that can harm human, animal and plant life, if not disposed of scientifically. When such things end up at landfills, they leach chemicals into the soil, contaminating its surface and water table. They thus contaminate the water that flows into the Arabian Sea.
In March last year, the Union environment ministry introduced the E-Waste Management Rules, 2016. The guidelines made it mandatory for producers under extended producer responsibility (EPR), to collect e-waste and hand it over to recyclers. Penalties were levied in case of improper management of e-waste.
“The new rules are strict. We are making people aware of them. The preliminary response over the past 18 months has been good,” said Jyoti Mhapsekar, president, Sree Mukti Sangathana. “E-waste increases daily. Disposing of such waste has become a serious issue as it poses a threat not only to dumping grounds, but also to the air we breathe. When the chemicals present in discarded e-waste burn, toxic fumes are generated.”
According to a study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), Mumbai is the country’s e-waste capital, generating about 96,000 metric tons of the 17 lakh tons generated in India annually.
The report identified the institutions that collected e-waste from their campus and old electronic items from their home. Colleges such as SIES College of Arts, Science & Commerce, Sion (West), St.Andrews College, Bandra (West), Ramnarain Ruia College, Matunga, Khalsa College, Matunga and Jai Hind College, Churchgate, and housing complexes such as Kumud Vidyamandir, Deonar and Ballena Society, Chembur have designated areas where they collect e-waste to be recycled.
The NGO collects e-waste and divides it into three categories – A (computers, CPUs, monitors, mobile phones, laptops), B (cables, batteries, UPS, printers, switchboards) and C (electronic material containing major plastic, telephone, keyboards, mouses and CDs). “We pay people who deposit larger electronic items. Certificates, recognised by the state and central pollution control boards, are issued to individual housing societies, educational institutions and schools,” said Sunita Patil, project coordinator. “PBVS segregates and stores the waste stored at seven store houses across the city before it is sent to be recycled.”
The recycling firm at Navi Mumbai, which is authorised by the state and central pollution control boards, sells the metal to industries after extraction. “While plastic items are disintegrated and sent to factories, chemicals are sent to effluent treatment plants rectified by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board,” said an official from the private agency.