Plastic that has been recycled from electronic waste including old cell phones is posing a threat to human health in India, according to a new report. While electronic waste such as used cell phones and the unsafe handling of it has long been a source of worry for environmentalists, concern is now growing about the recycling and reuse of plastic sourced from such outdated electronic goods and being made to make ordinary household goods and even toys for children.
The study by NGO Toxics Link, which is based in Delhi, says that plastic that is recycled from electronic waste such as old cell phones contains brominated flame retardants (BRF) which, while intended to make the devices fireproof, also contain chemicals that are extremely dangerous to the environment and to human health. These chemicals leak out very slowly from such e-waste but becomes very hazardous during recycling, particularly in India where much of the recycling takes place in an unorganized sector that has very few, if any, safety precautions in place.
“Delhi is probably the biggest recycler of e-waste in the country with about 7000 plastic processing units,” says the project manager at Toxics Link, Priti Mahesh. “Several thousands of people are employed in these units and are constantly exposed to BFRs… Hardly any precautions are taken when handling it. Recycling in the unorganized sector is not only an occupational hazard but also a major cause of environmental pollution.”