Tackling the menace of e-waste in the current Socio-Environmental Scenario

Last Updated: Mon, May 21, 2018 16:53 hrs
E-waste

(A file-picture of e-waste used for landfill. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Albert Einstein once said: “The world we have created today has problems that cannot be solved in the way we thought when we created it”.

This thought is telling the truth behind the e-waste (WEEE – Waste electrical & electronic equipment) disposal menace, which unnerves even the most developed countries and not without valid reasons! To understand the magnanimity of this problem we need to see the facts and figures and a change of our mindset.

e-waste generated in the world today is 200 times the weight of the Empire State Building (or 11 times as much as the great Pyramid of Giza)!

With the rising digitization of services and the drive to push digital literacy, India has become one of the largest consumers of technology, while also becoming the fifth largest producer of W Waste in the world!

e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. As per the official figures, India generates up to 2.5 Million tone of e-waste currently. Informally, this figure is much higher than 2.5 million. According to a NASSCOM survey, India would be home to 3 million metric tons of e-waste by the end of 2018.

Bangalore city alone is generating around 50000 tons of e- waste annually, not to mention the accumulated waste in the last 5 to 10 years.

Despite this, we are yet to come to terms with the severity and the need of an organized and scientific disposal of e-waste. Further, hazardous waste dumped without proper processing has also led to pollution of our water bodies, leading to health and environmental problems, impacting quality of life.

Recycling an answer:

In our quest for progress by mass industrialization and automation, we are neglecting our planet and the environment. Unsustainable and unscientific handling of e-waste has resulted in huge health problems for people involved. In India alone, two-third of the people handling e-waste recycling are suffering from respiratory ailments, tremors, cardiovascular and pulmonary disorders due to improper safeguards and unsafe ways of recycling. Apart from the dangerous dumping of waste products, there is also wastage of crucial natural resources.

Effective recycling of e-waste could be a solution to control pollutants like Chromium, Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Beryllium and plastics to enter the ecosystem. Instead, these can be conserved and recycled through processes like ‘urban mining’.

Further, adequate metals and non-metals can be recovered from e-waste management if done right and can be effectively put back into the supply chain to be re-used by electronics and other industries.

This could also be the answer to controlling and diseases borne out of polluted air, like bronchitis and lung cancer. Such improper methods of e-waste disposal are also instrumental in global warming resulting in erratic seasons and deforestation.

While the world has already taken adequate steps to effectively process and manage e-waste, India is now waking up to the significance. The E-Waste Management Handling Rules 2011 & 2016 notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) makes it mandatory for all generators, commercial establishments to get their E-Waste recycled through authorized E-Waste Recyclers only. However, currently very few companies in India are engaged in e-waste recycling, creating a huge mismatch on generation and available facility to handle e-waste.

Just like the strong awareness and push on general cleanliness and waste management, it is vital for corporate and the community to wake up and take notice of the serious E waste problems we have upon us. With proper guidelines, awareness, policy incentives and environmental and economic benefits, E Waste management can be easily adapted as one of the key business practices for Indian companies.

V Ranganathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Cerebra Integrated Technologies. Besides offering contract manufacturing and computing services, Cerebra also operates an e-waste facility capable of handling up to 96000 tons of E Waste. The company is headquartered in Bengaluru.

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