Are you recycling your e-waste?

From May 1, 2012, as per the central government’s e-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, consumers will have to route their e-waste to recycling units for scientific dismantling and recycling. This is to be executed through collection centres established by the product manufacturers.

Raj Gandhi, facility manager, The Imperial Twin Towers at Tardeo, drops a computer keyboard into an e-waste bin, the contents of which will be sent to a scientific recycling facility. If left to the vagaries of the informal recycling sector, e-waste contaminates the soil, air and water around us. pic/ suresh kk

Yeshwant Sontakke, regional officer, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), explains, “We have instructed product manufacturers to set up collection centres where people can deposit electronic gadgets whose life cycle has ended. MPCB has also directed these manufacturers to recycle unbranded electronic gadgets that may be brought in by consumers. This will be accomplished in phases, with us conducting regular reviews. Manufacturers have been instructed to advertise about the e-waste recycling services and educate people about the same. MPCB has tied up with NGOs to disseminate this message among people too.”

However, he rues that the greatest challenge to bringing about this change is the lack of awareness amongst people about e-waste management, and their reluctance to give up conventional methods of e-waste disposal and the monetary gains associated with them.

Typically, people sell their outdated / broken gadgets to the neighbourhood scrap dealer, who resorts to unscientific methods of recycling like melting the metals down in the open air and releasing waste and toxins into the atmosphere as well as nearby water bodies.

“It is impossible for us to keep a check on every consumer and what they do with their e-waste. E-waste, if not disposed scientifically, can lead to serious health problems by entering the food chain or polluting the atmosphere. Hence it is for every individual to take it upon themselves to responsibly recycle their e-waste and prevent it from being hazardous to society at large,” he added.

It affects you
Anuj Maheshwari, manager, marketing, Eco Recycling Ltd, an e-waste recycling company located at Vasai, explains, “Clients bring in their products for recycling. But once they realise that they might not get as much money from recycling their goods as compared to selling their goods to a scrap-dealer, they take their products back. In case of small commodities such as tubelights and cells, where the recovery of metals is very less, we are not able to give any monetary return to the client.”

Maheshwari explains that on the contrary his company bears the cost of recycling these items. “However, in case of bigger appliances like microwaves, refrigerators, etc where the recovery of metals is higher, we reimburse the clients with a price equivalent to that of the metals recovered. Recycling centres invest money in labour, machinery and travelling to scientifically recover metals from e-waste and safely dispose them. You may earn some money by selling their e-waste to a scrap dealer, but when the same dealer burns this hazardous waste in your vicinity, thereby increasing the toxicity in the atmosphere, you will be affected,” he adds.

Recycling, he explains, is a also a safer way of disposing of devices that contain sensitive data like floppy discs, hard drives and computers. “Through advanced recycling techniques, we carry out secure data destruction and issue certification for the same. However, this may not be the case when a person sells these devices to a scrap dealer. Sensitive information could land in the wrong hands.”

How does scientific recycling work? “We recover plastic metals like iron, aluminium, gold, silver, lead, phosphorous, copper, steel, brass, etc and sell them to industries that require them as raw materials. Thus, recycling helps preserve scarce national commodities, prevents pollution and preserves the environment,” he said.

‘People are careless’
In July 2011, 59 year-old Shri Kashi Vishveshwar Adhyatmic Sanskrit Mahavidyalaya (KVASM) at Vile Parle (West) became one of the first educational institutes in the city to install an e-waste bin.

Sunil Agarwal, honorary trustee, KVASM that owns the educational institute played a pivotal role in this. “I had a room full of non-functional gadgets. I did not want to sell them to a scrap dealer, as I was aware about the hazards. Last year, I came across an advertisement of a city-based recycling company and contacted them about how I could safely dispose of my e-waste,” said Agarwal.

Assured that his e-waste would be recycled safely, he sent his and the KVASM’s dysfunctional printers, telephone handsets, scanners, fax machines, tubelights, watch batteries and mobile phones to the recycler.

After that Agarwal decided to install an e-waste bin at the Mahavidyalaya to motivate others in the locality too. He also started appealing to relatives and friends to route their e-waste through a proper recycler.

But that doesn’t mean everyone has learnt. “A few days ago, I saw a sackful of useless tubelights and CFL bulbs dumped on the pavement near Vile Parle station. These contain mercury, which if not disposed of scientifically, are hazardous to human health. It hurts to see this careless attitude of people,” he rues.

People’s reluctance to let go of money also bothers him. “There have been times when I have requested people to leave behind their non-functional gadgets in the bins and they ask whether I will resell them to a scrap dealer myself.”

Agarwal now sends the e-waste bins to the recycler as soon as they are filled. He has also obtained a disposal certificate from the recycler that states that his e-waste has been recycled scientifically.

E-waste bins in societies
The Imperial Twin Towers at Tardeo became one of the first housing societies in the city to install an e-waste bin in its premises in the last week of April 2012.

Raj Gandhi, general manager, Facility Management, Imperial Towers, Tardeo, said, “While exchanging notification e-mails with residents of the building on segregating dry and wet waste, a foreign resident opined that a third segregation of electronic waste was also necessary and an essential part of healthy civic living. This set me thinking and I instructed my team to look for a certified recycler for our complex’s e-waste.”

The tower management zeroed in on an authorised recycler and installed an e-waste bin in the complex lobby. Circulars and e-mails were sent to 158-odd residents of the towers, urging them to dump their electronic waste in the bins for recycling.

Over the last two weeks, residents have dumped non-functional keyboards, mice, cellphone batteries and watch batteries for recycling.

The tower management has also allotted a separate store-room within the complex to accommodate bigger electrical appliances sent by residents.

“Every housing society in the city must install e-waste bins,” added Gandhi, who is in the process of installing similar bins at his company’s other residential and commercial sites in Kolkata and Chennai.

People for change
A few Mumbaiites have also taken it upon themselves to educate people about the benefits of recycling e-waste.

Take the case of 33 year-old Pritam Khatri, an export manager with an agro-based company, who appealed to his office management to route their e-waste through proper recycling channels.

“I came across an advertisement of a recycling company and decided to send my e-waste across. I then started appealing to others to do the same, and colleagues at my previous workplace followed suit with non-functional electronics like computers and printers. I am also spreading the word at my current office and hope that I will be able to bring a positive change in the attitude of the people here.”

Unlike Khatri, 40 year-old Devneesh Khurana has a more personal reason for spreading the message. A few years ago, he developed health problems when he passed by some scrap dealers burning e-waste on the side of the road.

“I suffered a bout of vomiting immediately after I passed the spot where toxins were being released into the air. That’s when it struck to me how dangerous it can be to sell your e-waste to a scrap dealer. After the incident, I contacted a recycler to know how I could scientifically and safely deal with my e-waste,” said Khurana.

He added, “Since then I have been routing my e-waste to an authorised recycler and also spreading awareness amongst people about the ill-effects of handing over their e-waste to the wrong people who flout all the norms of safe disposal.” 

What classifies under E-Waste
>> IT equipment such as computers, printers and keyboards
>> Monitoring and control instruments
>> Automatic dispensers
>> Medical devices
>> Consumer electronics
>> Large and small house-hold appliances like microwave, refrigerators, ACs, etc
>> Telecommunications equipments like mobiles handsets and accessories
> Electronic and electrical appliances

Eco Recycling Limited
Earth Sense Recycle Pvt Ltd: 42014765

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