E[co]work is a startup project of Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories of Materials Science and Technology. Empa has been leading the Swiss development cooperation engagement on e-waste for more than 15 years. The Indian branch of the Swiss headquartered consultancy Sofies is involved as a local partner, with over 10 years of e-waste technical expertise.
In India, 95% of e-waste is processed by the informal sector. The activities related to the recycling of these materials are often dangerous and polluting, but they also provide a living for a significant number of low-income people. Recently, the country has passed various laws to regulate these activities. However, compliance by micro-entrepreneurs is complicated as it involves financial investments and complex licensing procedures. The E[co]work space provides a dedicated environment for e-waste recycling work by pooling costs and providing specific services not accessible elsewhere. Protective equipment, specific tools and machines as well as training are offered by the centre, thus favouring the development of micro-enterprises. The aim of the project is to achieve an economically viable place thanks to a self-sustaining business model.
Workshops were organised and taught in small groups due to the pandemic. Various challenges were identified and addressed with appropriate solutions. In October 2023, the first e-waste recycling centre was officially inaugurated in New Delhi, in the presence of local and Swiss representatives. Work is now focused on promoting the use of these new premises.