Managing plastic waste has become a critical part of our discourse on waste management, and that’s a positive thing.
However, e-waste must also enter that critical conversation as it contains heavy metals and other toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, and sulphur that pose a real danger to our environment.
According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, the country is expected to produce 3.3 million tonnes of e-waste containing toxic metals and chemicals by the end of 2018.
By 2020, it is likely to reach 5.2 MT, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 30%, says the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
So, we have little choice but to find ways of disposing of this waste which isn’t harmful to the environment.
“Direct contact of harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and exposure to toxic fumes may cause serious health hazards. Toxic chemicals and heavy metals leaching into soil and water may cause pollution, while toxic fumes reach into the environment and cause air pollution,” says the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
Electronic products like computer monitors, motherboards, mobile phones and chargers, headphones, television sets, air conditioners and refrigerators have become ubiquitous in the modern age.
However, once these products have exceeded their utility value, where and how do you dispose of them? What can you do as a consumer?
E-waste Recycling 101: Where to Donate Your Old Electronics, Phones in India
Sorting through e-waste. (Source: Facebook/E-Waste Recyclers India)
For starters, if your computers, refrigerators or microwave are still in working condition, you can donate them to a non-profit.
Old computers, for example, can be donated to government schools or non-profits. You must ensure that the product is in a reusable condition.
Similarly, you can sell your used electronics on websites like Olx or Quickr, while several companies like Amazon and Flipkart have exchange offers for mobile phones.
But if your electronic product is entirely out of order, there are specific steps you should never take:
1) Do not mix your e-waste like remote control batteries with regular waste.
2) Never dismantle your electronic products by yourself.
3) Never sell or give away your e-waste to your local scrap dealer/ragpicker who function in the informal and unorganised market.
Here’s what you can do, instead:
1) Give your e-waste to the nearest authorised e-waste collection centres/recyclers.
2) Call the producer/ manufacturer of your product for e-waste collection.
Under the Extended Producer Responsibility, which is a policy approach, manufacturers of laptops, mobile phones or microwaves are responsible to channel e-waste and ensure that it is managed in a way which is environmentally sound.
E-waste is a serious issue which we need to address urgently. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
This means it’s incumbent on the producer to set up collection centres (for example, Lava mobile phone) or develop a take-back system.
“The producers have to meet targets, which should be 20% of the waste generated by their sales. This will increase by 10% annually for the next five years. The law also says that the responsibility of producers is not confined to waste collection, but also to ensure that the waste reaches the authorised recycler/dismantler,” says this Down to Earth report.
So, can give your waste away to?
Here are five organisations that you can approach.
1) Bengaluru has multiple government, non-profit and resident welfare associations that you can approach with your e-waste.
For example, Saahas, a sustainable waste management non-profit, will take your waste at collection centres across the city if you have more than 10kgs of e-waste.
You can call them between 9.30am to 6 pm or write to them.
In Hyderabad, you have a simple and efficient Internet of Things (IoT)-based platform, called Sanshodhan E-waste Exchange. It enables corporations across India and societies in the city of Hyderabad to transfer their e-waste to authorised recyclers.
2) Karma Recycling: This Delhi-based startup buys old mobile devices and sells repaired ones at a much cheaper rate.
As The Better India has reported, “All a user has to do is go to the website, pick the brand and model of the smartphone, laptop or tablet he/she wants to sell, and answer some basic questions about the condition of the device. The website uses algorithms that give users an estimate based on the state of the phone. Once the customer agrees to sell the device, people from Karma Recycling go, pick it up and send it to one of their service centres – either in Delhi or Bangalore.”
Thus far it has purchased over 5.5 lakh devices and paid out Rs 15 crore to its customers.
3) Namo E-Waste: This Faridabad-based e-waste recycling startup was awarded the Best Green Startup of the year 2015-16 in the Clean and Green India awards by Franchise India.
It collects all sorts of electronic waste and recycles them into different products. It collects from companies, institutions, organisations and housing societies as well across 12 states and union territories.
For representational purposes only. (Source: Facebook/Saahas)
“We check the electronic item and segregate it into repairable and irreparable assets. The irreparable ones are then sent for dismantling — we segregate it into different materials, like plastic, metal and precious metal. Then comes the last process — recycling. Shredding, electrolysis, separation and other non-hazardous methods of segregation are part of this process. The harmful substances are taken out during recycling and sent to government-approved dumping sites where they are incinerated,” says Akshay Jain, founder of Namo eWaste Management, speaking to Edex Live.
4) ExtraCarbon: This Gurugram-based startup, founded in 2013, links customers to authorised scrap dealers through their apps across nine cities in North India.
“It picks up all recycled goods, from bottles and books to electronics. Customers are paid in cash and shopping credits. ExtraCarbon then sells recycling materials to government-certified waste processors. Reselling makes up 70 per cent of the company’s revenue,” says this report in The Hindu. It collects approximately 6,000 tonnes of e-waste and other waste in a year.
5) Cerebra Integrated Technologies: Boasting of having one of the largest e-waste facilities in India, this Bengaluru-based entity offers repair, refurbishment and reuse of all electronic and electrical equipment.
“To protect yourself and your company from potential data loss, our commercial components shredder ensures the efficient destruction of hard drives, prototype units, processors, chips and other sensitive storage media devices. With CEREBRA, you can be confident that the records, files, and programs which may still reside on surplus or outdated equipment will never be found on the secondary market, in the hands of thieves – or the research labs of your competitors,” says this description on the company website.