E-waste revolves around 2R`s Let`s not e

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E-waste revolves around 2R’s
Let’s not e-waste the chance just imagine, the world has turned into a massive junkyard, like in the
famous Hollywood animation ‘Wall E’, and human beings are forced to abandon the planet only to
return after the mess is cleared. It’s hypothetical but our fears could come true one day, if we don’t start
shouldering Responsible Recycling!
Electronic equipment is no longer a signature statement, confined to the domain of a select few;
It has become an integral part of our lives and over a period of time is bound to replace pen stands and
writing pads from the desks of almost everybody. It wouldn’t be surprising if pens and pads become
collectors’ items and end up being sold for prices higher than communication and computation
equipment. And why not, after all, change is the only constant in life.
Today, our life is virtually incomplete without equipment and gadgets like computers, mobile
phones, refrigerators, washing machines and electric irons. These items tend to undergo wear and tear
and after a point of time cease to be of use. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE),
popularly known as e-waste, is the term used to describe old or discarded appliances. Once these
appliances and equipment reach the scrap dealer, they either gather dust or are dumped into rivers or
in open areas, without realizing the damage being caused to the environment.
E-waste contains harmful components like halogenated compounds, heavy metals besides
radioactive substances that can spell danger to health and the environment. Heavy metal like Cadmium,
which is used in rechargeable NiCd-batteries, printer inks and toners besides photocopying-machines,
can affect the environment due to its toxicity. Exposure to cadmium fumes causes flu-like symptoms.
Fluorescent lamps contain Barium, which forms poisonous oxides after coming in contact with air. Shortterm exposure to Barium could lead to brain swelling, muscle weakness, damage to the heart, liver and
spleen. CFC (chlorofluorocarbon) affects ozone layer resulting in more cases of skin cancer. The list goes
on.
As far the Indian scenario is concerned, according to an estimate, government offices, business
houses, industries and households dump more than two million obsolete computers. On an average,
manufactures and assemblers produce around 5, 00,000 tonnes of electronic scrap annually. It should
be noted that the rate of personal computers (PC) becoming obsolete stands at one every two years.
According to a recent study, in the next 10 years computer waste would increase by 500 per cent in
India alone, considering this, the importance of e-waste management needs to be understood with
focus on the 2Rs- Responsible Recycling.
B K Soni, chairman of Eco Recycling Ltd says, “At present, the normal practice is to sell this
equipment to scrap dealers after extensive use. These people dismantle and recover whatever best they
can and either burn or dilute the remaining parts in hazardous chemicals. They also throw scrap in the
open. These waste materials then pollute the air, water and soil.” Practically, all electrical and electronic
equipment contain some useful and hazardous substances. However, when they are dismantled or
processed unscientifically, either due to lack of knowledge or earning more form scrap, it leads to
polluted air, water and soil. This has given rise to a number of new diseases. We are least bothered
about how e-waste is affecting our national productivity, standard of living and causing deaths due to
contamination. About consumer behavior, he says, “I fail to understand why can’t we hand over our
used gadgets to someone who can responsibly deal with these hazardous substances in a scientific
manner?”
Natural resources are limited and our demand is growing constantly. “If we do not recycle
whatever we can, we would disturb the natural equilibrium. “says Soni adding, “ Therefore, when we
want to reproduce either the same or any other item out of the natural resources, we need these
ingredients again and again to meet the never ending demand. The need of the hour is that every single
gadget used by us is systematically recycled and the raw material ploughed back in the system rather
than harnessing the already depleting resources.” It has been observed that certain parts of the world
are not equipped with proper knowledge, technologies and regulatory framework to handle these
discarded end of life electrical and electronic equipment. The rest of them have several excuses and opt
for landfill, a cheaper option but it complicated environment and ecology further.
Globally, about 50 million tones of e-waste is generated annually which consists of close to 15
million tones of steel, practically equivalent to the annual production of SAIL. Similarly, more than 10,
000 tonnes is plastic, glass and other material.” Referring a recent study, Soni says, “According to the
study ‘the developing world will generate more waste computers than the developed world. Global
volumes of computer e-waste are expected to triple between 2010 and 2025 the developing Asia, due to
its high population and rapid growth, is a major contributor to this future waste stream’.” Are there are
solutions? Soni suggest, “The developing world must prepare itself well before this menace leads to
natural calamities. It does not mean, we reduce our consumption patter or compromise with our growth
plans but take this as an opportunity to set up required number of facilities to recreate resources out of
the end of life electrical and electronic equipment and also generate substantial gains by applying
principles of reverse engineering. There by, we can lead as one of the best source of raw material
supplier and help generate foreign exchange and create more employment.”
Often it is recommended that there should be reduction in consumption, reuse should be
promoted and recycling opted for. It is a nice suggestion but in reality, we know that technology changes
very fast ad the younger generation who are the real drivers of economy will have to reduce
consumption and reuse older generation technologies and compromise with productivity which appears
to be unfavorable to overall economic growth. We can achieve all our objectives if we focus seriously on
Responsible Recycling (2R).
THE ECONOMIC TIMES BANGALORE FRIDAY 20 AUGUST 2010
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