In the last twenty years, computers have revolutionized our daily life. In our every day life we use cell phones, sit in front of various screens like our PCs, television sets etc. and use our microwaves and fridges for keeping ourselves well fed quickly. Travel reservations have become so easy with the computers and cellular phones.
The other thing that we do is replace our mobiles, computers, fridges, washing machines etc. more frequently than we need to. My mother uses a fridge she got in 1989, while I have changed 4 since then. I have to have the most recent good looking fridge as my friends have it. I have to keep up with the latest. Same goes for cell phones, computers, stereos and microwaves. This consumerism is great for our city and economy as it increases demand which in turn boosts our economy and maintains a good growth.
But every solution to an old problem is a new problem. This consumerism gives rise to electrical and electronic or the e-waste. It is one of the fastest growing waste stream in the world. It needs appropriate treatment and disposal facilities that we do have in our country, as per the legal requirements. We also have a Law.
What is missing is that there are not enough Kabadiwalas to reuse, recycle and dispose e-waste safely. This waste contains over 1000 different substances. The long term health impact of e-waste is cancer. Why are there not enough Kabadiwalas? Because there is not enough demand for its treatment.
In the past when there were fewer cars in Delhi, old car batteries producing lead were simply thrown away. But over time, when the number of old batteries increased with an exponential increase in the number of cars, there came, Kabadiwalas who processed it to extract lead and which is a ‘dirty’ but lucrative business.
What can we do? What we can do is to recognize this impacts of our actions and overcome the barriers to inventing a future of e-waste free environment. The biggest barrier is peer pressure to buy newer, better, latest things. Second barrier is indifference to the impact or our actions on the environment. The solution, like for any environmental problem, is to reduce, reuse and recycle. We as consumers can reduce. We can postpone decision to buy an electronic gadget like computer, cell phone or its upgrade. It will be cheaper for you. Use the gadgets till they ‘die’. As part of their last rites ask the shop keeper or the Kabadiwala, when he takes it away, how he plans to dispose it off and suggest recycle and reuse of substances extracted from it. Be aware and start asking questions.