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Simon Thomas Ebner

Simon T. Ebner

student / Environmental Policy Research Centre

1. Sep. - 31. Dec. 2010

In my research project at the TERI University, New Delhi I will focus on e-waste recycling system in India. In order to do this I'm planning to compare the basic elements of the Indian recycling system to those of the Swiss best-case model.

The Swiss e-waste recycling system is well researched. Therefore a document analysis will be a good method to develop a scientific framework. As a second step it could be beneficial to try to adapt the framework to the Indian system to discover the differences between both systems. In order to research the Indian recycling system, a case study seems to me to be the proper way, because nowadays scientific research of the Indian recycling system is quite narrow. An academic stay in India would open up the opportunity for me to do interviews with experts in the field of ewaste recycling and will certainly provide me with the possibility to have access to decision makers and stakeholders in the e-waste business.

As a conclusion I will point at the question how the identified differences in both recycling systems influence the different environmental outcomes of both systems. Just to make clear in which way both systems have similarities I will now give a short overview. The genesis of both national recycling systems was similar in some ways. In both systems the industry decided to install an auto-financing recycling system in order to tackle the problem of a growing waste stream of electric devices. Beyond doubt there were different industrial sectors involved in the constitution of the recycling system but the early incentives to install a nation-wide recycling system were both market-driven and efficiency-driven. The Indian recycling system, like the Swiss one as well, work self-organized. Both systems are using a decreasing market price through reuse or recycling of electronic devices as an incentive to companies to participate in the recycling system. When the Swiss recycling system today represents nearly all producers and importers of electrical devices throughout the country, the Indian one is struggling within two types of recycling systems. One type is a formal recycling system organised by the big recycling companies. The other type is an informal recycling network consisting of waste pickers, itinerant buyers, dealers, wholesalers and recycling enterprises. In most cases in India the owners of electric devices, which have reached their end-of-life, are selling the waste to waste pickers or itinerant buyers. E-waste recycling has become a profitable business, employing many groups of people. Often underprivileged workers are dismantling e-waste in small backyard workshops and segregating those materials which are of value. The techniques they use are raising severe environmental and health problems.

New Delhi is a centre of unregulated e-waste recycling in India. A survey of the „Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research, Empa“ estimates that there are at least 10000 people working in e-waste recycling in the municipality of New Delhi.

In his study on the similarities between the Swiss and Indian e-waste recycling systems Deepali Sinha-Khetriwal characterizes the Indian recycling system as the following:

"While environmental concerns take a back seat amit more pressing problems, Indians culturally are loathe to waste, and this ensures that electrical and electronic products often find secondand even thirdhand users farther down the income chain. Furthermore, recycling is a market-driven and growing industry in India, albeit one driven by economic necessity associated with poverty."

(Sinha-Khetriwal, D. (2005):498).


Possible cooperation partners could be:

In Germany:

  • Sarah Bormann (WEED), Member of Project “PCglobal”
  • Dr. Mario Tobias of the German “Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media, Bitkom.
  • Sandra Spies and Anja Wucke, of the “Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH”. In 2004 they run a Project which dealt with the issue of ewaste in India under the umbrella of the bilateral german-indo programme “Advisory Services in Environmental Management, ASEM”.


In India:

  • The New Delhi-based NGO „Toxics Link“. Indias biggest and most influential NGO working in the field of hazardous substances.
  • The responsible Institution in India is the „Ministry of Environment and Forests, MoEF“.
  • The Department of Policy Studies at Faculty of Policy and Planning, TERI-University New Delhi.


Empa (2004): E-waste pilot study Delhi: knowledge partnerships with developing and transition countries. St. Gallen, Empa; 2004. http://www.ewaste.ch/.

Sinha-Khetriwal, D. / Kraeuchi, P. / Schwaninger, M. (2005): A comparison of electronic waste recycling in Switzerland and in India. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 25/2005, S. 492-504.