Circular economy and household e-waste management in India. Part II: a case study on informal e-waste collectors (Kabadiwalas) in India

Diyasha Sengupta, I. M.S.K. Ilankoon, Kai Dean Kang, Meng Nan Chong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Rapid advances in electronics and telecommunications technologies have contributed significantly to making e-waste one of the largest and fastest-growing solid waste streams. India produces over 3.23 million tonnes of e-waste each year. Over 90% of the total e-waste generated in the country is processed by the informal waste management sector. Informal waste collectors in India are known as ‘kabadiwalas’. Many people in India employ their services to discard household solid waste items, including e-waste. However, the percentage of people disposing of their e-waste to kabadiwalas is unknown. Moreover, detailed research studies on kabadiwalas’ waste collection activities are very limited to date. A case study was therefore formulated to determine the likelihood of e-waste disposal to kabadiwalas and their solid waste collection strategies, including e-waste fraction. A global positioning system (GPS) based real-time waste collection route tracking method was employed. The results indicated that many people in India (∼45% of survey respondents) prefer to dispose of their e-waste to kabadiwalas. Based on the GPS tracking results, the informal waste collectors were found to travel considerable distances using manual and modified three-wheeler vehicles (20–30 km per day) to collect household waste, out of which e-waste accounted for about 10%. It was deduced that their large workforce and low operating costs enable them to collect e-waste from households all over the country effectively. The results from this study indicate that kabadiwalas play an integral role in the e-waste management system of India and that their integration into the existing formal e-waste industry could help establish improved e-waste management and value recovery operations in India.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108154
Number of pages11
JournalMinerals Engineering
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • E-waste in India
  • Household e-waste
  • Informal e-waste management
  • Recycling
  • Waste management

Cite this