Children and Digital Dumpsites report released by WHO


The new report, titled Children and Digital Dumpsites, was recently released by the WHO.

Key findings:

More than 18 million children and adolescents working at e-waste dumpsites in low- and middle-income countries are potentially at the risk of severe health hazards.

They face risk due to discarded electronic devices or e-waste being dumped from high-income countries.

What are the Concerns?

e-waste contains over 1,000 precious metals and other substances like gold, copper, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

The processing is done in low-income countries, which do not have proper safeguarding regulation and which makes the process even more dangerous.

Children are especially preferred at these dumpsites because of their small and dexterous hands.

Several women, including expectant mothers, also work there. Processing e-waste exposes them as well as their children to these toxins, which can lead to premature births and stillbirth.

The hazardous impact of working at such sites is also experienced by families and communities that reside in the vicinity of these e-waste dumpsites.

Volume of e-waste generated across the world

The volume of e-waste generated is surging rapidly across the globe. About 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2019.

Only 17.4 per cent of this e-waste was processed in formal recycling facilities. The rest of it was dumped in low- or middle-income countries for illegal processing by informal workers.

This is likely to increase in the coming years because of the rise in the number of smartphones and computers.

What actually constitutes e-waste?

E-Waste is short for Electronic-Waste and the term is used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded electronic appliances. It includes their components, consumables, parts and spares.

Management of e- waste in India:

Laws to manage e-waste have been in place in India since 2011, mandating that only authorised dismantlers and recyclers collect e-waste. E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016 was enacted in 2017.

E-waste Generation in India:

According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generated more than 10 lakh tonnes of e-waste in 2019-20, an increase from 7 lakh tonnes in 2017-18. Against this, the e-waste dismantling capacity has not been increased from 7.82 lakh tonnes since 2017-18.