By Yutika Agarwal
The IT industries and IT-related organizations have grown tremendously in and around Delhi over the past few years. The constant upgradation of software and hardware have reduced the lifespan of PCs to about less than five years. The waste thus generated by the same has increased proportionately to the growth of the industry over the years. Delhi, with a population of about 13.8 million and an area of 1483 square kilometres, produces about 7% of the total e-waste generated in India. The CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board), New Delhi, has reported that 7200 tonnes of imported e-waste arrives daily in the city for 300 days a year. Another fast-emerging e-waste source is cellular phone. Delhi reported over 2 crore mobile phone users in 2010.
Most of the old computers from IT industries, government offices, other organizations, and the ones imported from foreign countries are purchased by dealers based in Nehru Place and Wazirpur in New Delhi. Each shop purchases about 150-200 computers per month and an equal number is sold after rectifying the computers from parts extracted from other branded computers. A trader purchases each computer for approximately Rs 500-600 and sells it for Rs 7500-8000 after repairing or re-assembling it. The unusable materials are further sold to the scrap dealers. Dismantlers in Delhi are located in areas like Old Seelampur and Shastri Park, Shastri Park has 8-10 shops involved mostly in dismantling and disassembling operations. The dismantlers receive about 15-20 PCs for dismantling every fortnight which are hammered to extract different materials like IC chips, circuit boards, and so on. The materials after dismantling are then sold to recyclers; in Delhi the recyclers are located majorly around Mandoli industrial area.
The PC recycling units are mainly engaged in extraction of copper and its compounds. The circuit board is first dipped in caustic soda solution and the colour of the board is scrapped off with brush. The plates are then submerged into plastic drum containing acid solution (H2SO4:HNO3:H2O in the ratio 2:1:1, acid purity 4%-5%). The metal sludge thus formed is allowed to settle at the bottom of the drum. The metal, which precipitates during this process, is separated from the supernatant by decanting the acid water. The metal sludge is then spread over plastic sheets and allowed to dry in the sun. The dried metal precipitate is powdered and then sold in local markets, which are used for the production of metal sheets and other components. The complete set of extraction process is carried out by both men as well as women, who generally work without proper protection arrangements in an unsafe environment.
Apart from copper compounds, certain precious metals like gold and silver are also extracted in the process. Gold is generally recovered from gold-plated pins, which are then sold to goldsmiths for about Rs 3000-3500 per kg. Lead from circuit boards and batteries is retrieved at Mustafabad and isolated areas of Yamuna Vihar. About 2-3 kg of lead is recovered from a computer which is again sold further.
Thus, majority of the materials from a single computer are recycled and reused by a number of end-users. Apart from these, other non-recyclable materials like plastic residues from IC chips and condensers are generally dumped on open fields and drains around dismantling and recycling areas. This dumping pollutes the land and water bodies nearby in turn affecting the human health.
The author is a II-semester student of M.Sc. Economics at TERI University, Vasant Kunj. She graduated in Statistics from Ramjas College, University of Delhi. The interest in subject encouraged her to pursue a masters in Economics. She likes to read, dance and play badminton. She worked as an Associate Analyst in the quality and risk management department in Ernst & Young, GSS, Gurgaon for a span of 8 months post her graduation.
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