E-Waste Management- An Industry to Look Forward!

E-Waste Management- An Industry to Look Forward!

“Electronic waste” or “E-Waste” means electrical and electronic equipment, whole or in part discarded as waste by the consumer or bulk consumer as well as rejects from manufacturing, refurbishment and repair processes. It is the discarded electronic equipment put-up for resale, reuse, salvage, recycling or disposal. The e-waste recycling industry is considered as one of the most promising and fastest growing sectors globally.

Most of the times, electronic waste is considered as the one having a circuit board or cathode ray tube (CRT) and is near or at the end of its useful life. Some of the e-waste examples are: Routers, stereo equipment, desktop, laptop, digital cameras, scanners, digital projectors, fax machines, monitors, UPS, television, servers, mainframes, VCRs. Cell phones, component parts, DVD players, keyboards, cables, calculators, mice, telephones, remote controls, joystick, etc., such electronic items. It would be interesting to know specific aspects of e-waste management for those new in the industry (India).

Processes Involved in E-Waste Recycling:

The patents in this field have been granted under the following categories:

  • Batteries: Battery recycling, Lead battery, lithium ion battery, Acid metal recovery
  • Displays: LCD, Plasma display, CRT
  • Processing/ Logistics: Recycling information, Magnetic permanent field, Carbon Thermal Decomposition
  • Material Recovery: Decomposing moulded resin, plastic separation recycling, metal recycling, noble metal, semiconductor titanium, Rare Earth metal
  • Hazardous Materials: Polychlorinated Biphenyl Transformer, Titanium powder capacitor, Indium oxide recovery, Fluorescent Lamp mercury
  • Fuel Cells: Fuel cell recycling
  • Printed Circuit Boards: Solder melting, PCB
  • Wire/ Cable recovery: Cable insulation removing, wire harness.

Basic process involved at recycling plants:

  • Sorting of all the items – this is done manually.
  • Dismantling of e-waste materials to retrieve all the parts. After this process, the waste material is categorised into reusable and recycling product.
  • First size reduction involves shredding of dismantled material to diameter size of fewer than 2 inches.
  • Second size reduction for further shredding the material. Any non-toxic material is removed at this stage as dust.
  • Removal of magnetic products is done with the help of machines.
  • Metallic materials such as Copper, Aluminium and brass are separated from the debris and are either sold as raw materials or used for manufacturing other products.
  • Separation of plastic and glass material is done with the help of water. The raw material is taken at this stage again.

Separate recycling process of individual e-waste material:

  • Plastic: It is mostly re-used since it cannot be easily degraded. A large amount of plastic is used in manufacturing other plastic items.
  • Metal: These are melted and sold as raw material which is used in manufacturing industries.
  • Glass: It is difficult to extract from the components of screens since that contains several hazardous items as well.
  • Mercury: It requires a specific technology which is used to separate mercury and that can be later used in dental facilities for amalgamations and making some instruments.
  • PCBs: These also require specific technology which also recovers all the metal that is attached to it.
  • Hard Drives: These contain a large amount of data and thus are shredded into pieces and the important metal parts are re-used.
  • Cartridges: metals are extracted or are sent to their specific manufacturers for recycling.
  • Batteries: Plastic and metal are separated and then sent to specific recyclers.

Market of E-Waste:

A report was recently published by TechSci Research which suggested that e-waste market in India is expected to grow at a rate of 30% annually until 2019 where Southern metro cities and Western metro cities are the major contributors of e-waste pertaining to a large number of IT and electronics companies. However, Delhi/ NCR region is one of the fastest growing regions with new recycling facilities in last few years.

Another industry research report has suggested that India’s production of e-waste is going to further increase by nearly three times from existing 18 lakh metric tonnes to 52 lakh metric tonnes by 2020. While this is a growth of 30% CAGR, globally the number is only 17.6% which is much less. Among the e-waste, computer equipment accounts for almost 70% of it, telecommunication waste accounts to 12%, electrical equipment to 8% and medical equipment to 7%. The remaining 4% includes household e-crap.

E-waste accounts for approximately 40 percent of the lead and 70 percent of heavy metals found in landfills. These pollutants lead to ground water and air pollution and soil acidification. High and prolonged exposure to these chemicals/ pollutants emitted during unsafe e-waste recycling leads to damage of nervous systems, blood systems, kidneys and brain development, respiratory disorders, skin disorders, bronchitis, lung cancer, heart, liver, and spleen damage.

Business Model of Other Players in the Market:

However, not all the e-waste in the country is collected through these recyclers. There are several players apart from these which are involved in collecting e-waste and leading it to these recycling units. Note that the following companies have been selected considering the fact that they have the similar business model. These companies are not involved in recycling or dismantling but in collection procedure. These are the companies all around the world so that we can understand what is happening in this field currently. These companies are not necessarily competitors; however, these can be considered as learning partners.

There are 4 in Gurgaon, 1 in Bahadurgarh, 2 in Faridabad, 4 in Ghaziabad, 2 in Greater Noida and 3 in Noida. These are the most accessible recycling units near Delhi region.

Ecoreco:

It’s an e-waste management company. The company started out with recycling plant and eventually moved towards reverse logistics for e-waste. The meet is the run by its certified partners with several pre-processing plants in India. Ecoreco has planned to integrate all the Kabadiwallas in its network of collection and dismantling of waste and thus has provided support to these people while taking benefit of an untapped opportunity.

It has tied up with several EEE manufacturers and also with private logistic companies to support reverse logistics and has own trucks & containers. They have state level dismantling centres and national level recycling plants. The company has its own mobile shredding facility for data destruction stored in hard drives, disks, media tapes, flash drives etc.

Swach E-Waste:

This is Pune based company and is authorised by the government for collecting and channelling e-waste.They deal with hazardous waste (e-waste flier). They have set up collection bins also in schools, offices, residential areas, shopping malls, university campuses etc. However, if someone wants to have picked their e-waste directly, they will have to pay for transportation. They have set up their office where people can drop their e-waste. The company is authorised by Pune Municipal Corporation to provide door to door waste collection and other waste management services.

However, it seems that the Swach E-Waste is not very well able to handle all the hazardous material easily since semi trained women work as waste pickers and they segregate it only a dry and wet waste instead of categorising it according to e-waste type. The company works on all kinds of wastes and is not focused on toxic e-waste material.

UK IT Recycling:

UK IT Recycling company has quite a different business model. Along with providing on site data destruction, the company also provides computer recycling programs to the company so that they do not unintentionally bypass any law imposed by the government. The company has maintained dropping centres where companies can drop their e-waste for recycling, free of charge. The company earns through the selling of raw materials and the programs that are conducted in various IT companies to make them aware. It is also open to households who can drop their e-waste at their centres. The company also provides a certificate for data destruction which gives proper security.

ICT Reverse UK:

This company is totally a reverse logistic company. It was initially started as reverse logistics and data erasure service provider for corporate mobile phones. Now with time, they have grown and have started providing services across the full spectrum of data bearing assets and electronic devices.

Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainability reports and data security all are often seen as an aside to daily business operations. It is ICT Reverse’s aim to facilitate the application of these principles daily as part of the essential ingredients for success. They also provide compliance reporting regarding e-waste management.

Optoro USA:

This is also a reverse logistics company which helps the retailers, process, manage and sell their returned and excess inventory. Optoro also has e-commerce channel where old items can be sold to other customers and they have marketed it as selling with a purpose. They have a brand name BLINQ where brands, retailers, manufacturers can sell their excess inventory at lower prices. However, the brand name is not shown on the website since it may impact the brand’s reputation and they sell it on their own name.

DESCO Africa:

Desco a highly-organised company regarding e-waste collection. One can even book a service online which is not provided by most of the companies worldwide. They also have drop-off points where people can drop their e-waste. They have different charges for such requested collection which seems to be very nominal. They have special mention of higher prices for glass waste since it is sent to a separate recycling plant due to hazardous material. The certificate is also provided to the e-waste provider so that they can show it to the government.

The Gap in Indian Market:

  • Awareness: The first thing that is required to be fought is awareness. At the national level, there are very few companies which are actively working on this segment. There are many recycling plants which mainly work for the bigger companies and the manufacturing industries. These recycling plants have their collection measures but they are not focused on smaller levels. A large amount of e-waste remains untouched and eventually gets wasted such as from households and small companies. At the best point, it is sold to unorganised rag pickers who are themselves at risk handling such waste. Lack of awareness is a big challenge, however, looking at the current scenario common man is becoming more conscious of the environmental factors and can be a great support to this drive.
  • Lack of affordable and proper collection procedure: In some of the cities, some companies have started collecting e-waste. However, there are several challenges in this case. Collecting e-waste from households is quite a costly affair and as the standard has been set up by rag-pickers. The amount of e-waste from households and small companies is quite small in amount and requires affordable collection procedure. One of the ways can be, fixing a date of collection from a specific area and contacting all the providers beforehand so that they keep the waste ready to be delivered for recycling.
  • Lack of skills: A formal training is much required for the person responsible for collecting e-waste from companies and households. There could be hazardous material involved which could impact the collector’s health. A very minimal training should be provided to them. The collectors are working in an unsafe working environment which does not appeal to the customers also.
  • Lack of use of technology: Technology has entered into almost every industry; however, e-waste management is being run in age old traditional methods. If there is an option of online booking, the whole process can be made much convenient to several people and companies. They can simply book timings of the collection online and give information about what the waste consists of. The company can then send its people to collect the waste.

If a mobile application is made which guides people regarding collection kiosks points, the amount of e-waste collected in a month from different areas, booking of e-waste collector through just one click etc., it can be highly convenient for smaller companies and households which are major target customers.

Competitors in this Market:

  • Ecowise: The company is headquartered in Noida. The company provides the door-to-door collection of waste from households and thus proves to be a strong contender. Ecowise has three sections- residential waste, industrial waste and commercial waste. The company has clients in Noida such as Centre Stage Mall, Haldiram’s, ATS etc.
  • Attero: This is India’s largest electronic asset management company and it focusses only on electronic products. The company has a capability of extracting usable metal from end to life electronic devices. Attero is a government recognised recycling centre also. They have their reverse logistics operations implemented in several cities in the country.
  • Waste Ventures India: This is quite an innovative website. It is based in Hyderabad. This is a digital platform to support recycling operations. As mentioned above in one of the sections, this company has used technology to connect with households. Waste Ventures collect waste from all the areas and there is no processing, they simply collect it and hand it over to the recycling plants which actually pick up from their own pickup points.

Discussion with Roshan from Waste Ventures Limited: The company collects all kinds of waste which also include e-waste. Apart from tube lights and CFL tubes, they pick up all the equipment such as TV, Refrigerator etc. Their clients are mostly from households but they also have customers from small scale companies and IT firms. The company has both door-to-door service as well as collection points where people can drop off their waste. Roshan told about awareness, that people are getting more aware these days and young generation is very much receptive of this.

  • BinBag: It’s a Bangalore based company and is involved with the collection of waste that includes e-waste, paper and plastic, however, they have contacts with other collecting parties which can collect wet waste as well. BinBag provides the collection of waste, compliance and certification that the e-waste has been judicially recycled.

Challenges:

  • Challenges with the handling of toxic waste: Disposal of e-waste is an emerging problem in a strongly developing country India. According to one of the study conducted in 2010, around 25,000 workers (including children) are employed in e-waste handling units, however, most of the e-waste is still dismantled and processed by bare hands.

In most of the cities, 40% of rag pickers are small kids who are even more prone to health risks due to lesser immunity. These untrained workers and children burn the computers, cables etc. to extract copper from them. These conditions result in a large number of cases of tuberculosis and respiratory problems among the slum dwellers.

  • Handling of pick and drop of waste: Currently, there are 138 authorised recycling units across the country and they have a total capacity of 349154.6 MTA. Many recycling units offer the corporates and households to drop their e-waste at some collection point and other do collect it with small charges.

The challenge comes in terms that this way, the reach of formal e-waste collection procedure becomes very less and still a large amount of e-waste is being handled by local waste pickers and extraction units. The major challenges are:

  • Lack of incentives for consumers going through formal procedure
  • Lack of awareness
  • Multiple level collection is required
  • Challenges with the collection of e-waste through formal measures:
    • Challenges – Skilled personnel: Collecting from door-to-door requires a proper vehicle, a person who is trained to understand the kind of e-waste and its toxic level and can determine the compensation to be given to the waste giver. Considering the fact that this work is mostly dominated by unorganised sector.
    • Handling logistics: There are two ways of doing logistics – hiring a third party for trucks/ small vehicles and organising the own fleet of trucks. Many organisations working in the country have their own trucks and they also take support from third parties when required.
    • Reaching to the recycling/ dismantling plant: Product mapping is required to be done for the nearest plants so that there is minimum costing of transportation. If the process is to be done, it is required that segregating of waste is done within the trucks itself and thus requires a trained person.

Initiatives Undertaken for E-Waste Management:

  • E-Waste Rules 2016 by Central government of India
  • Implementation Guidelines for E-waste Management Rules, 2016- Central Pollution Control Board, Delhi.

Delhi State government has prepared a layout for schemes and policies for recycling of e-waste. Some of the rules that have been set by the Government of India for the producers of e-waste are:

  • Manufacturers: They need to consider the e-waste that is generated during the process of manufacturing of their products. They need to keep a record of all the e-waste generated and handled which can be scrutinised anytime by CPCB and they also need to file annual returns of their e-waste.
  • Producer: Producers need to channelize the collection of e-waste after the end of their life from the customers and the whole process should be in accordance with the Extended Producer Responsibility. For the material such as mercury, they need to also take care of pre-treatment. They should have importing access only if they have EPR authorization and they also need to maintain records and file a return of e-waste to the CPCB.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility: Authorisation should comprise of general scheme for collection of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment from the Electrical and Electronic Equipment placed on the market earlier, such as through dealer, collection centres, through buy-back arrangement, exchange scheme, Deposit Refund System, etc. whether directly or through any authorised agency and channelising the items so collected to authorised recyclers.
  • Collection Centres: They can collect e-waste on behalf of producers, recyclers and manufacturers. They need to ensure the whole process to be in accordance with all the guidelines that are issued by CPCB.
  • Dealers: The dealer shall collect it by providing the consumers with a box, bin or a demarcated area to deposit e-waste. The dealer or retailer or e-retailer shall refund the amount as per taking back system or Deposit Refund Scheme of the producer to the depositor of e-waste, safe transportation, no damage to the environment during storage.
  • Refurbishers: Collect and channelize the e-waste, submit details to CPCB on yearly basis, no damage to the environment during storage and transportation, ensuring that refurbishing has no adverse effect on health and environment.
  • Consumer: They needs to ensure proper channelizing of e-waste, maintaining records, annual returns to CPCB.
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