India’s Informal Market

India’s informal electronic market is influenced by hundreds of thousands of people who collect unregistered recycled goods. Over 90 percent of India’s e-scrap enters the informal sector for processing, according to a national assessment and follow-up studies by nonprofit groups and academic institutions. In fact, the Seelampur slum, many call home, has become one of India’s most concentrated centers of electronics dismantling and recycling, with an estimated 25,000 informal workers. Similar processing clusters exist throughout India, the world’s second-most-populous country with a population of 1.32 billion.

The security issue behind these businesses collecting unregistered electronics for scrap is that the lower-value materials often get dump or end up in crude processing sites that put individuals at risk for hackers. The environmental risks for these disposed pieces also create an issue.

Increased international media scrutiny of these realities has helped push Indian policymakers and other stakeholders to try to formalize the sector. In 2016, an extended producer responsibility system went into effect, mandating electronics producers to help manage a nationwide e-scrap system. That lack of clear guidance for these new processes exists – no one has figured out how to integrate the Indian informal side in a successful manner.