Recycling, Environment, and Exclusion of Electronic Scrap Workers in Delhi

L’ÉTUDE DU CERI N° 270 - Novembre 2023 

In recent years, the Indian e-waste sector has undergone a process of formalisation through the implementation of E-waste Management Rules (2016), leading to the creation of what I call recycling regime. The upper and middle classes, along with NGOs and industry actors, are frontrunners in thinking about e-waste policies. They were prompted by a twofold motive: the desire for a “world-class”, clean, and pollution-free city; and seizing business opportunities by extracting value from e-waste. Rather than replacing the State, they co-opted the State so that it would legislate to safeguard the environment, and address toxicity and health problems associated with e-waste. Recycling regime relies on formalisation processes embedded in multiple technologies – technicity, capital-intensive facilities, certifications, authorisations, and licences – that work together to exclude the “informal” sector from the e-waste governance system. Recycling technologies act as “technologies of domination” that further contribute to sidelining the “informal” labour of scrap workers or e-kabadis, who as Muslims already find themselves on the margins of society. However, the recycling regime fails to safeguard the environment in the end as e-waste trickles down back to the informal sector via authorised actors.

Couverture L’ÉTUDE DU CERI N° 270 - Novembre 2023
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Gayatri Jai Singh Rathore