Children and Digital Dumpsites

Note: This topic is important for TISSNET

In its latest report “Children and Digital Dumpsites,” the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted the dangers that discarded electronic devices or e-waste pose to children engaging in informal processing.

Every year, over 18 million children (as young as five years old) and 12.9 million women work at these e-waste dumpsites.

Every year, high-income countries’ e-waste is dumped in middle- and low-income countries for processing.

About the E-waste

  • Electronic-Waste is abbreviated as E-Waste. It is a phrase used to describe electrical items that have reached the end of their useful life or have been abandoned.
    • It mostly consists of electronic equipment that has been totally or partially discarded as waste by a single or several consumers, as well as rejects from production, refurbishment, and repair procedures.
    • Gold, copper, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are among the approximately 1,000 precious metals and other compounds found in it.

Volume of E-waste:

Global Scenario:

The volume of e-waste generated is steadily increasing around the world, according to the Global E-waste Statistics Partnership.

  • In 2019, 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste were produced.
  • In professional recycling facilities, only 17.4 percent of this ewaste was processed. The rest was dumped in low- and middle-income countries, where it was illegally processed by undocumented labour.
  • This is due to an increase in the number of cellphones and PCs on the market.

Indian Scenario:

  • India created more than 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019 20, up from 7 lakh tonnes in 2017(18), according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). In contrast, since 2017-18, the e waste dismantle capacity has remained unchanged at 7.82 lakh tonnes.
  • The Ministry of Environment told the tribunal in 2018 that the informal sector recycles 95% of Ewaste in India, and scrap  dealers dispose of it unscientifically by burning or dissolving it in acids.

Impact of Working at Digital Dumpsites

  • On Children: Children who work in these “digital dumpsites” have poor lung function, deoxyribonucleic acid damage, and a higher risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
    • They are less likely to metabolise or eliminate ingested contaminants.
  • On Women: There are several women that work there, including expectant mothers. They and their children are exposed to these poisons when they process e-waste, which can result in premature births and stillbirths.
  • On Others: Families and communities living near these Ewaste dumpsites are also affected by the toxic effects of working at such sites.

Management of E-waste (International Convention):

Basel Convention on the Control of the Trans-boundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, 1992.

  • Initially, the Basel Convention did not mention e-waste, but in 2006, it was amended to include it (COP8).
  • The convention aims to assure environmentally sound waste management, prohibit illegal transit to poor nations, and improve e-waste management capacity.
  • At the Basel Convention’s COP9, the Nairobi Declaration was adopted. Its goal was to come up with new ways to manage electronic waste in an environmentally friendly way.

Management of E-waste in India:


  • The Ewaste (Management) Rules (2016) were enacted by the government, enforcing the Extended Producer Responsibility(EPR).
    • Producers have been held liable for collecting a particular amount of E-waste generated by their items once they have reached their “end-of-life” under the EPR principle.

State Governments:

  • They’ve been tasked with maintaining industrial space for e-waste breakdown and recycling.
  • They are also expected to put in place safeguards to protect the health and safety of workers who operate in e-waste disassembly and recycling operations.

Recycling of E-waste:

  • In Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India’s first e-waste clinic was established for the separation, processing, and disposal of trash from residential and commercial units.


  • In India, the majority of e-waste is recycled in unorganised units that employ a large number of people. Metal recovery from Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) using rudimentary methods is extremely dangerous.
  • Proper education, awareness, and, most importantly, alternative cost-effective technology must be supplied so that those who rely on this for a living can have better options.
  • To address India’s e-waste management concerns, a holistic approach is required. One strategy may be for unorganised sector entities to focus on collecting, dismantling, and segregation, while the organised sector handles metal extraction, recycling, and disposal.
  • A appropriate system must be developed to integrate small unorganised sector units and large organised sector units into a single value chain.

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