Technology has become an essential part of our lives. We love to upgrade ourselves; whether it’s the latest smartphone or a laptop, we will not rest in peace until we possess the best possible gadgets available in the market. No doubt our lives have become a lot easier, but do you wonder what happens to your old gadgets that are conveniently dumped at the nearest garbage pile? How are they recycled or disposed off? Well, they eventually become ‘electronic waste’ or ‘E-waste’ or ‘E-scrap’.
E-waste refers to any electronic goods that have become either obsolete or no longer function. In today’s times, it has become a luxury to own more than one television set or smartphone. Besides this, several multinational companies worldwide throw away huge quantities of old equipment and replace them with new ones, adding to the e-waste menace.
How can a single mobile phone become a threat to the planet that is fighting a losing battle against global warming? Sadly, just a tiny amount of the Ewaste generated is recycled. Hence, these wastes are hard to jettison as it can lead to serious health and environmental issues. Many electronic goods such as cathode ray tube TV sets, computers, mobile phones contain toxic elements such as beryllium, lead, cadmium etc. in large amounts that pose serious health risks.
Further, the recycling process of electronic waste is quite hazardous. Printed circuit boards are scrapped by acid bath and de-soldering. Plastics used to make keyboards and other components are outmoded by chemical stripping using nitric and hydrochloric acid. Copper wires used in computers are burnt and stripped in the open to obtain copper, thus resulting in severe air pollution.
A report by the Comptroller & Auditor General found that 400,000 tons of electronic waste is generated in India every year. The Central Pollution Control Board estimates that around 0.5 metric tons of e-waste is generated every day. The top ten e-waste producing states of India are – Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab.
Among the metro cities, Mumbai ranks first followed by Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. At present, India and China have become the largest global dumpsters for e-waste due to low processing costs and unorganized working conditions.
However, every cloud has a silver lining. Experts believe if e-waste is handled properly, it can be used as raw materials for other products. Metals like iron, copper, palladium, gold and silver can be extracted, while non-metals like glass and plastic can also be recycled. Over the last 10 years, many Indian companies have stepped forward to tackle this problem.
Companies doing E-waste recycling in India
Some of the well-known e-waste recycling companies in India are listed below:
- Attero, a Roorkee-based e-waste management company, handles almost 500 tonnes of e-waste per month. Founded by Rohan and Nitin Gupta in 2007, the company currently provides its service to nearly 100 cities across 22 states in the country. India’s electronic industry is growing by 20% annually and one can expect 800,000 tons of e-waste generated every by 2020.
- Bangalore-based E-Parisaraa Pvt Ltd is India’s first government authorized electronic waste recycle company. Started in 2005, it extracts waste such as gold and silver and converts them into industrial raw materials.
- Delhi-based Karma Recycling has launched an e-portal to offer a simple online electronics trade-in service, which makes it easy for commoners to resell or recycle their used electronic devices. Karma Recycling is also a government-authorized electronic waste collector and segregator that puts efforts on systematic electronics reuse and responsible recycling.
While the government needs to take steps in regulating laws, we citizens have to do our part in sending our old electronic goods for recycling. Companies like Nokia have ensured their devices be returned after usage for their recycle. Such ingenious steps should be taken by the manufacturing companies, which is not only favorable to the environment but also profitable to the company as well.
E-waste recycling in India is a serious issue to be worked upon. However busy our lives have become, we can help by following the 3R mantra to address this issue –
Reduce, Return and Recycle
- Reduce: Avoid buying products that are of little importance in our daily life. Avoid purchasing gadgets as a status symbol.
- Return: When bored with your old phone, do not throw it; instead return to its manufacturer. Nokia, Apple and Dell are few such brands that ensure their old products are returned after usage for recycle. If there is no recycling company in your vicinity, try donating or selling online.
- Recycle: Scrap that are usually buried or incinerated, can be directed to reprocessing centers for conversion into raw materials that can help conserve finite natural resources, including trees for paper pulp, oil and natural gas for the production of plastics and polymers and many more.
CPCB has created a detailed list of companies engaged in safe and proper disposal of e-waste in India along with their addresses. Sadly, a major part of the world’s population still remains unaware of e-waste’s toxicity that is slowly plaguing our lives. We need to act fast to prevent this dangerous menace.