Integrating the informal sector into India’s e-waste management system

The market for electronics is growing rapidly; short cycles in innovation and product life time result in increasing amounts of waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE or e-waste) which needs to be disposed of and recycled responsibly. Today, India represents the fifth largest producer of e-waste and generates approximately 1.85 million tonnes of WEEE annually. Thereof, more than 90% is managed by the informal sector where a lack of decent environmental health and safety standards results in massive environmental pollution and negatively affects the physical well-being of thousands of people.

In 2016, the Indian Government adopted the new E-Waste Management Rules, repealing the former E-Waste Management and Handling Rules from 2011. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) represents a core feature of this legislation. According to this principle, producers are held responsible for the professional treatment and disposal of generated e-waste. This may be achieved either by setting up central collection points or by mandating other professional organisations. Against this background, previous analyses have shown that large-scale collection and disposal of WEEE can only be achieved if the informal sector is integrated into formal waste management activities. The informal sector consists of a wide-spread network of collectors, intermediaries and scrap dealers which are highly effective in door-to-door collection of e-waste. Thus, the informal sector has the potential of channeling large quantities to authorised recycling institutions, thereby improving the environmental conditions and the well-being of the local population.

On behalf of the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), adelphi cooperates with its Indian partners Toxics Link and Strategos Advisory to analyse various sector initiatives which formalise previously informal structures and integrate them into India’s professional waste management system. In addition, adelphi advises public and private institutions on approaches to sustainable management of WEEE and is responsible for conceptualising and conducting workshops with stakeholders from both formal and informal sectors.

Publications of this project