Today, we are living in a technologically flooded era wherein mobiles, laptops, PCs, TVs, and hundreds of similar items have become an indispensable part of human life. But, as soon as these gadgets and appliances stop serving their purpose, we throw them away by improper disposable methods. This contributes to the heaps of e-waste.
The term E-waste is an abbreviation for electronic waste. E-scrap can be any electronic item that is unwanted, non-functional or near the end of its useful life. Many of you might not be aware of how this digital rubbish is impacting our planet as well as our lives.
This content will provide you with a detailed study of the global e-waste problem and the steps taken for its management.
What is E-waste?
In the midst of the E-revolution, everything around us has digitalised. Rapid technological advancement has innovated sophisticated hi-tech electronic goods. The concept of smart homes, smart offices etc., have impacted our lives so much that from our morning coffee to the cooking spoon, all of them have become digital. But, if we see the other side of the scenario, we will realize that the more digitalisation, the more e-waste will be.
Definition of E-waste
“E-waste or electronic waste is an e-scrap that is generated after the end of the life of an electronic appliance”.
- E-Waste Problems
- Types of E-waste
- E-Waste Management
But the question arises, what if these appliances and gadgets stop working? It is simple to throw them in a garbage bin and forget about them. But, what we don’t realise is that this electronic debris is hazardous to the earth and to the creatures living on it. This is because electronic debris comprises a huge amount of toxic elements.
Globally generated electronic waste is calamitously skyrocketing its proportion, creating heaps and heaps of unmanaged digital debris. It is one of the fastest rising hazards on our planet. According to global statistics, we generate around 40-50 million tonnes of e-waste every year around the globe. Can you imagine this makes it equivalent to the discarding of 800 laptops per second?
Types of E-waste
Broadly we can classify e-waste into different categories such as:
- Electronic toys and playing gadgets.
- Telecommunication and computer appliances.
- Medical devices.
- Monitoring devices like CCTVs.
- Vending machines.
- Lighting devices and gadgets.
- Electrical and electronic tools.
- Household appliances.
- Major appliances in factories, laboratories etc.
- Personalised gadgets.
There are several different approaches to improving e-waste management. Some of the important and effective ones are discussed below:
Apart from the government sector, there are several small scales as well as large-scale initiatives that are actively contributing to the management of this e-debris.
One such initiative is NaMo E-waste, located in Faridabad, Haryana. It is one of the most successful e-waste management and recycling companies. It provides you with a door-to-door facility for ensuring a convenient collection of e-waste. Later the waste is taken to the recycling plant, wherein it is segregated into repairable and non-repairable categories.
The repairable ones are sent to the repairing unit, while the no n repairable ones are sent to the dismantling unit. The mental part is separated from the non-metal part in the dismantling department using some strong electromagnets. This process extracts the maw materials like rubber, plastic, iron, aluminium, tin etc.
The metals like aluminium, iron etc., are melted in the furnaces and are moulded into their ingots. These ingots are sent to the automobile industry to manufacture the parts. Whereas the plastic and rubber residues are recycled to generate the 2nd-grade items.
Along with this, many electronic companies provide e-waste collection centres. You even might have heard about the exchange policies where you can take your old appliances and can get a new one with a small investment. Such companies have their own e-waste management, where they either repair or recycle the appliance collected from you.
Providing Market Information about E-waste Prices
The e-waste market is a well-established market, including the formal as well as informal sector operators. Yet there is a lack of awareness about the ways to market it in the right place. There is a large market that deals with e-waste and its components. But still, the people remain afar from this sector.
Publicising their prices will lure more and more people to actively indulge in this sector. Updating the consolidated price list on a weekly basis can be one of the approaches to spread awareness among local scrap vendors. The price list can be designed in such a way that it covers all the components of digital waste, including:
- Bulk electronic scrap
- Metal parts
- Plastic components
- Ceramics etc.
The information about the prize list must be given on easily approachable and dedicated websites or even in the daily newspapers. The list must manifest the prevailing demands and must attract the vendors to buy or sell the e-waste at fair prices.
Incentivising Formal E-waste Recycling
The government of India announced a point-based reward scheme for E-waste recycling credits (ERCs). ERC encourages formal organisations to route their e-waste through recycling facilities that have received government approval. Based on the type of digital scrap supplied, the organisation earns requisite ERCs, which they can utilise to clear the energy utility bills. E-waste rules have proper classification and coding systems for different digital items.
Such initiatives also offer the informal sector substantial incentives to formalise their e-scrap activities and establish a proper supply chain of accredited recycling facilities. The infrastructure improvements and processing systems in already-established, government-approved recycling facilities can also be co-financed by the Indian government to increase formal e-waste recycling capacity.
Through public-private partnerships with significant e-waste corporations, it can offer incentives for co-financing the establishment of new recycling facilities by governments.
Attractive Collective Schemes
- Buyback: It is decoying mechanism for the customer where the companies promise to return their electronic item after the end of its life at some minimal amount. It is an incentivising process which makes people collect their electronic debris and discard them with the proper channel instead of just throwing them in the garbage bin.
- A deposit refund scheme (DRS): This system assures the customer of the return of the surcharge taken by the company at the time of purchase. The company rebate this surcharge when he/she returns the same electronic item.
- Exchange Policies: Most electronic companies use this scheme where they offer the customers to bring back their old appliances and take a new one.
Installing Advanced Recycling Technologies
The increasing amount of electronic scrap has developed an urgent need for installing more advanced and mature recycling technologies. The already present manual techniques might be effective but are not enough for today’s problem. Recycling is one of the most effective ways to cater to the issues regarding electronic waste.
In order to manage e- scrap appropriately, the government should take initiatives at the state as well as local levels. Joint ventures must be promoted between international and domestic government and non-government bodies to establish advanced electronic waste recovery plants. Private and public investments can fund these ventures combinedly
Upskilling the Informal Sector Players
Mostly all of the informal e-waste recycling networks need an upgradation. The workforce involved in this task is not properly trained in today’s period, which is why the process of e-waste management is not appropriate at the local levels. Particularly the steps like handling and dismantling hazardous waste needs proper training and precautionary measures. For this, the government, as well as bigger corporations involved in this sector, can organise camps and training programs. This will help to upskill the informal vendors and their teams to move the e-debris through a proper path.
Regulating the Import of E-waste
Under the currently existing policies, if the e-debris is not in the condition for recycling or reusing, in that case, it can’t be imported just for its final disposal. In developing countries like India, where the proper infrastructure for recycling their own e-scrap, such countries should ban all kinds of imports related to e-scrap.
But if the country has a proper set-up for recycling and reusing electronic waste, it can import the e-scrap from outside.
Developing Innovations for Future
Concerning the rapidly changing composition of digital debris, investing in the Research and development sector is necessary. By this, we could invent a broad range of technologies that are capable of catering for the problems related to multiple types of electronic waste.
The gradually advancing world is creating more complicated electronic stuff, which is smaller in size but capable of doing humongous work. Thus, the government should promote and fund the related R & D so that we could future-proofing India’s e-waste policies for next-generation e-waste management.
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