South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - "There's No Definition of Old in This Market": Reuse Economies in India's e-Waste Capital

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Virginia Suite B, Lobby Level

Over the past two decades, informal electronic waste (e-waste) recycling in India has become internationally infamous due to widespread reports on polluting and hazardous recycling processes in the informal waste sector. In response to these concerns and to reverse the perception of India as a global e-waste “dumping ground,” the Indian government recently passed laws requiring formalization of electronics recycling and banning imports of used materials. This has rendered the informal but well-established recycling sector and related industries illegal and further cemented a pervasive yet unexamined understanding of used electronics as hazardous waste, placing e-waste in the legal purview of corporate waste management companies.


I argue that exclusive attention to used electronics as an unequivocally hazardous waste stream serves to hide vast reuse and repair industries that straddle the informal and formal sector electronics markets in cities like Delhi, (a somewhat self-proclaimed e-waste recycling center). These vibrant refurbishment industries comprise a huge component of used electronics markets in India, rendering recycling and disposal a last resort. At its core, Delhi’s informal electronic waste sector rejects the regulatory emphasis on “cleaning” India through waste management and instead directs attention to the processes of making waste, seen through the sector’s connections to international trade and production networks of new electronics. Based in research in Delhi’s major electronics market, Nehru Place, I trace multifaceted linkages between the ‘local’ and the ‘global’ in India’s used, repair and scrap electronics worlds in order to reveal the dense web of connections within which e-waste is located.

Julia Corwin

University of Minnesota, Minnesota

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3 - "There's No Definition of Old in This Market": Reuse Economies in India's e-Waste Capital



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