Müllberg mit Kind

Way out of dilemma: From informal e-waste management to circular economy in India

India is the 3rdlargest e-waste contributor in the Asian continent behind China and Japan. And India is facing an acute problem of e-waste ending up in the informal sector. In order to understand the problem Prayag Desale analyzed the e-waste situation in Indian metropolitan cities. Guided by Thinking Circular Prayag Desale identified the collection & recycling challenges and assessed possible solutions.

Indischer Mann mit Schubkarre und Müll

Waste picker form Pune, India. Photo by Prayag Desale

The rising problems of e-waste and its management by informal sector has raised various social and economic concerns in developing countries like India, where more than 70 % of the sector is organized informally. Formalization of these informal e-waste collectors is need of the hour to obtain stable income and social benefits which would improve their livelihood. The Delhi Think Tank “Toxics Link” introduced five hybrid models also known as formal-informal linking models as a solution to this problem. Prayag Desale’s study highlighted the lack of implementation of this linking hybrid models on ground level and argued barriers of missing trust among informal collectors. Missing formalization was identified as source to provide them with better financial returns.

A closer view to further developed circular market structures helped to identify the missing aspects for guidance. And the past has shown that cooperatives and community based organizations have played key roles as organizers for the establishment of circular resource market places in European countries. These structures have helped vulnerable informal groups in providing employment recognition, achieving social inclusion and making waste management sustainable business.

India can learn from this and promote formation of cooperative organization or sharing businesses for the informal e-waste collectors and develop a sustainable e-waste management. Today this is even easier by using virtual technology and apply mobile app organization. There is need of implementing all the hybrid models in unison to close the loop of e-waste in India by leveraging and collaborating with the informal actors. This shows that there is long way ahead for India to achieve a circular economy in e-waste and implementation of hybrid models is just a step towards it.

Eveline Lemke, Prayag Desale, Dr. Frank Ziebeil

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