India’s Poor Risk ’Slow Death’ Recycling ’E-Waste’

Friday, July 9, 2010

NEW DELHI – Young rag-pickers sifting through rubbish are a common image of India’s chronic poverty, but destitute children face new hazards picking apart old computers as part of the growing “e-waste” industry.

Asif, aged seven, spends his days dismantling electronic equipment in a tiny, dimly-lit unit in east Delhi along with six other boys.

“My work is to pick out these small black boxes,” he said, fingers deftly prising out integrated circuits from the pile of computer remains stacked high beside him.

His older brother Salim, 12, is also hard at work instead of being at school. He is extracting tiny transistors and capacitors from wire boards.

The brothers, who decline to reveal how much they earn a day, say they are kept frantically busy as increasing numbers of computers, printers and other electronic goods are discarded by offices and homes.

Few statistics are known about the informal “e-waste” industry, but a United Nations report launched in February described how mountains of hazardous waste from electronic products are growing exponentially in developing countries.

It said India would have 500 percent more e-waste from old computers in 2020 than in 2007, and 18 times more old mobile phone

Source: AFP (link opens in a new window)