This story came out in August of this year in .net magazine the UK, but it has taken forever for it to get online. I had always heard about E-Waste disposal but never knew how bad it was until I scoured the dumps behind Central Station. Special thanks to my mother-in-law Indira Govindan who helped me traipse through ankle deep mud and chemical waste in search of scrap dealers.

A dark concoction of grease, dirt and sweat on Mohan’s screwdriver made it difficult to grip the handle as he pried the copper coil loose from an old computer motor. Finally, with a grunt and a twist of his wrist, the wire broke and he unwound his bounty like silk from a spool of thread. In the age of globalisation where everything takes on a glossy sheen, Mohan is one man in a legion of morticians who attend to the last days of obsolete computer systems, appliances and gadgets. He turns them into gold.

“You know where he comes from?” his co-worker asks me while he gums a burnt cigar. “That bastard’s family used to climb trees for a living. He’s lucky to find a job working here with us.” Despite doing the same basic job, the scrap workers in this Chennai slum still make it a point to reinforce centuries-old caste hierarchies.

E-waste is a politely coined term that encompasses a wide variety of non-functional techn trash. It’s a growing problem in Asia. From the date of purchase, just about every electronic product sold on the planet begins a steady progression towards obsolescence. No matter how slick a device it was on the shelf of your local computer store, it will eventually become just one more piece in a mountain of useless keyboards, computers, mobile phones, game systems, televisions and countless other items. . .

Read the rest at .net magazine.