India’s Electronic Waste Graveyard

A worker pictured with obsolete computer keyboards and other electrical accessories in a small e-waste shop in the Seelampur neighbourhood of New Delhi, India. In Seelampur’s cramped alleyways, thousands of individuals, including children, handle various electronic waste like television sets, air conditioner units, computers, phones, and batteries. These workers dismantle the items and sort components without proper tools or safety gear, selling them to other traders for additional recycling. Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016-2018.
A worker pictured with obsolete computer keyboards and other electrical accessories in a small e-waste shop in the Seelampur neighbourhood of New Delhi, India. In Seelampur’s cramped alleyways, thousands of individuals, including children, handle various electronic waste like television sets, air conditioner units, computers, phones, and batteries. These workers dismantle the items and sort components without proper tools or safety gear, selling them to other traders for additional recycling. Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016-2018.

India is the third largest electronic waste generator in the world after China and the USA.

Seelampur, a small locality in East Delhi, is one of the largest unorganised e-waste recycling hubs in the country. The unwanted computer monitors, motherboards, cathode ray tubes, printed circuit boards, mobile phones and chargers, compact discs, headphones, and white goods such as plasma televisions, air conditioners, and refrigerators which are discarded here constitute e-waste.

Teenaged boys and women salvage metals like lead, copper, aluminum, brass, silver, and gold from
computer components. Motherboards are treated with sulfuric acid to extract silver and gold, while circuit
boards undergo high heat to recover copper. A range of other electronic waste is disassembled with various
methods to obtain precious metals, including the lead used in both formal and informal battery industries.
Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
Teenaged boys and women salvage metals like lead, copper, aluminum, brass, silver, and gold from computer components. Motherboards are treated with sulfuric acid to extract silver and gold, while circuit boards undergo high heat to recover copper. A range of other electronic waste is disassembled with various methods to obtain precious metals, including the lead used in both formal and informal battery industries. Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.

Seelampur has the distinction of having more than 3000 small and big shops for scrapping e-waste. It provides employment to more than 100,000 people.

E-waste is one of the largest, and yet most unorganised, environmental sectors in India. Gadgets discarded by India’s 1.2 billion-strong population account for much of the e-waste processed in Delhi, but there are growing concerns surrounding the increasing amounts of e-waste arriving from other countries, particularly Western nations. In 2019, India’s e-waste production rose almost 2.5 times to 3.23 million metric tonnes in six years, according to the Global E-Waste Monitor Report in 2020.

A young boy without any protective gear burns e-waste material inside a workshop to extract metals.
Seelampur, New Delhi houses India’s largest e-waste dismantling hub, where a large portion of the population
earn a living by breaking down, extracting, and recycling electronic waste in pursuit of valuable metals.
Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
A young boy without any protective gear burns e-waste material inside a workshop to extract metals. Seelampur, New Delhi houses India’s largest e-waste dismantling hub, where a large portion of the population earn a living by breaking down, extracting, and recycling electronic waste in pursuit of valuable metals. Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.

Hundreds of trucks carry around tonnes of e-waste which later enters into the Seelampur e-waste market. Most of the people working in the area are teenagers, majority of whom do not go to school, but work in the market and earn INR 200 per day.

A woman in Seelampur sorting through e-waste to find
components like circuit boards, capacitors, and batteries.
Caustic chemicals or burning are among the methods
used to separate gold and copper from these parts,
exposing workers to dangerous toxins.
Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
A woman in Seelampur sorting through e-waste to find
components like circuit boards, capacitors, and batteries.
Caustic chemicals or burning are among the methods
used to separate gold and copper from these parts,
exposing workers to dangerous toxins.
Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
A woman in Seelampur sorting through e-waste to find components like circuit boards, capacitors, and batteries. Caustic chemicals or burning are among the methods used to separate gold and copper from these parts, exposing workers to dangerous toxins. Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.

The workers suggest that their work is limited to segregation of materials and poses no danger, but e-waste can contain some radioactive substances which may prove harmful to the workers. A study by KPMG and the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) revealed that discarded computer equipment accounts for almost 70% of e-waste in India, followed by telecom devices and phones (12%), electrical equipment (8%), and medical equipment (7%). Shockingly, there are no health precautions in this business. Workers don’t have protective gear.

India is, however, the only country in the South Asian region with e-waste legislation. But, e-waste management in the country is largely based on informal sector activities primarily concerned with collection, dismantling, and recycling, not the welfare of its workers.

The residential building close to the Seelampur drainage system is adversely impacted by the build-up of electronic
and plastic waste in this area of New Delhi, India. During dry periods, fires can break out, sometimes deliberately
started by workers to remove excess waste.
Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
The residential building close to the Seelampur drainage system is adversely impacted by the build-up of electronic and plastic waste in this area of New Delhi, India. During dry periods, fires can break out, sometimes deliberately started by workers to remove excess waste. Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
Workers in Seelampur, New Delhi diligently unload a
truck brimming with discarded electronics such as
computers, monitors, phones, and air conditioner units
in the early hours of the day. Truckloads of e-waste is
unloaded on a daily basis, while thousands of labourers
employ rudimentary techniques to salvage valuable
components and precious metals like copper, tin,
silver, gold, titanium, and palladium. The extraction
procedures include hazardous acid treatments and
open-air incineration, which release noxious fumes
that pose a serious health risk to the workers and
has a catastrophic impact on the environment. These
workers toil for up to twelve hours each day despite
such hazardous conditions, which has led to respiratory
issues and various other health complications.
Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
Workers in Seelampur, New Delhi diligently unload a
truck brimming with discarded electronics such as
computers, monitors, phones, and air conditioner units
in the early hours of the day. Truckloads of e-waste is
unloaded on a daily basis, while thousands of labourers
employ rudimentary techniques to salvage valuable
components and precious metals like copper, tin,
silver, gold, titanium, and palladium. The extraction
procedures include hazardous acid treatments and
open-air incineration, which release noxious fumes
that pose a serious health risk to the workers and
has a catastrophic impact on the environment. These
workers toil for up to twelve hours each day despite
such hazardous conditions, which has led to respiratory
issues and various other health complications.
Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
Workers in Seelampur, New Delhi diligently unload a
truck brimming with discarded electronics such as
computers, monitors, phones, and air conditioner units
in the early hours of the day. Truckloads of e-waste is
unloaded on a daily basis, while thousands of labourers
employ rudimentary techniques to salvage valuable
components and precious metals like copper, tin,
silver, gold, titanium, and palladium. The extraction
procedures include hazardous acid treatments and
open-air incineration, which release noxious fumes
that pose a serious health risk to the workers and
has a catastrophic impact on the environment. These
workers toil for up to twelve hours each day despite
such hazardous conditions, which has led to respiratory
issues and various other health complications.
Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
Workers in Seelampur, New Delhi diligently unload a
truck brimming with discarded electronics such as
computers, monitors, phones, and air conditioner units
in the early hours of the day. Truckloads of e-waste is
unloaded on a daily basis, while thousands of labourers
employ rudimentary techniques to salvage valuable
components and precious metals like copper, tin,
silver, gold, titanium, and palladium. The extraction
procedures include hazardous acid treatments and
open-air incineration, which release noxious fumes
that pose a serious health risk to the workers and
has a catastrophic impact on the environment. These
workers toil for up to twelve hours each day despite
such hazardous conditions, which has led to respiratory
issues and various other health complications.
Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
Workers in Seelampur, New Delhi diligently unload a truck brimming with discarded electronics such as computers, monitors, phones, and air conditioner units in the early hours of the day. Truckloads of e-waste is unloaded on a daily basis, while thousands of labourers employ rudimentary techniques to salvage valuable components and precious metals like copper, tin, silver, gold, titanium, and palladium. The extraction procedures include hazardous acid treatments and open-air incineration, which release noxious fumes that pose a serious health risk to the workers and has a catastrophic impact on the environment. These workers toil for up to twelve hours each day despite such hazardous conditions, which has led to respiratory issues and various other health complications. Photograph by Faisal Magray, 2016 – 2018.
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About the author

Faisal Magray

Faisal Magray is a photojournalist based in India. His work revolves around documenting global and local issues—primarily focusing on human rights, health, conflict aftermath and socioeconomics.

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