The era of unorganised recycling of e-waste “formally” ended on 30th April, 2012 in India. With the rise of sun of 1st May, 2012, India joined the club of advanced countries committed for organised recycling of electronic waste.
Concerns associated with unorganised recycling:
I would like to first of all thank Kabadies (a commonly used terminology in India for the unorganised players) for their contribution to the material supply chain, had the discarded e-waste not been collected by these Kabadies, all our roads would have been flooded with e-waste. Kabadies did the job of dismantling of such complicated gadgets as per their limited understanding and resources but in the process:
- Ignored the impact on environment- because of open dismantling, burning, leaching etc.
- Ignored the impact on the health of self and family members- Inhaling, drinking polluted water, polluted food etc. Most of their earnings are spent on medical expenses.
- Ignored the impact on the society in general- polluted elements getting mixed with soil, water and air and entering in the human body in the form of fruits, vegetables, grains, water and air.
- Ignored the loss of commodities- burning, leaching processes destroys the commodities once for all and this has a direct impact on our ecological balance.
Now the time has come to take corrective steps which not only meets the regulatory compliances but also addresses environmental concerns which are affecting to one and all.
To overcome the above concerns:
As per the E-waste Management Rules, 2011, which became effective from 1st May, 2012, has one very important provision, known as EPR (Extended Producers’ Responsibility), under this a ‘Producer’ is responsible to take back the discarded equipment from the customers at the end of the life of the respective equipment. If this gets completely implemented (might sound to be theoretical, because of some challenges), in such case, most of the above concerns associated with the unorganised processes will get addressed.
To effectively implement such a foresighted provision, all the stakeholders will have to work together and contribute resources to develop reverse logistic infrastructure, stricter implementation of Rules, creating greater awareness about environmental impacts etc.
It is prudent to realise that organised recycling is just not only compliance of the E-waste Management Rules but our need because by virtue of that only, we can have better environment and save lots of valuable, which may be ploughed back to the main stream of industries to produce one or the other kind of products for our needs. If we do not do so, we will have to keep on digging mines to provide raw materials to the industries and on the other hand we will keep piling this discarded equipment, to create further imbalance.
In the present era, electronic equipment is a part of our lives and therefore to think of a socio-economic development without these gadgets is just not possible. In such case, we need to be very proactive to get this equipment recycled at the end of the lives of the equipment in such a manner so that we can reutilise all the basic natural ingredients without affecting environment & ecology.
As we know globally about 50 million tons of e-waste is generated annually and if purely from commercial point of view, India can look at this growing quantum of e-waste as an opportunity to source metals, plastics & glass from this urban mines then Indian industries can get much cheaper raw material from recycling of e-waste. This will not only help in reduction of carbon foot print but present natural resources lying in the Indian mines may also be conserved for incremental demand of future over & above saving in foreign currency needed for import of precious metals like gold, silver etc. I am not advocating ignoring Basel Convention or the Laws of the Land in this context but if we practically look at the growing quantum of e-waste at global level and further correlate with the inherent capability of Indian recyclers v/s exorbitant costs of recovery in the developed world, we will find that the developed world focuses on recovery of valuables and rest probably goes either in land fill or shipped out.?
As per a study of MAIT, 50,000 MT of e-waste enters in India every year and logically this must be finally getting processed at some point of time. If 50,000 MT gets processed then much larger quantum can also be recycled if it is strictly regulated and channelized to the authorised recyclers of the country.
B K Soni
(The author is the Chairman & MD of Eco Recycling Ltd but these are his personal views)