Walk into any office today and you will find yourself surrounded by computers, copiers, scanners, televisions, cellphones and other electronic devices. It won’t be too much to say that these devices play a pivotal role in our lives. But few stop to think about what happens to them once they reach the end of their life cycle.
Honestly, you will be surprised to know how they get disposed after they become obsolete, and the hazards they pose to the environment and human beings. Since e-waste management is a less understood topic, many myths surround it — most of which are anecdotal with no data to back them. If we identify and debunk these myths now, we can act more responsibly in the coming times to protect the environment and human health. Here are five common myths about e-waste management in India, and their counter facts by V Ranganathan, Founder and Managing Director of Cerebra Integrated Technologies.
The issue about e-waste management is hyped:
Maybe this issue wasn’t as huge twenty years ago since most offices and healthcare centres didn’t use as much electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) as today. But with the exponential rise in the number of EEE, managing these devices after their life cycles have become critically important. Also, with the amount of e-waste being conveniently exported from first world countries to developing nations, the situation needs addressing sooner rather than later.
E-waste gets recycled properly in India:
The way e-waste is managed in India leaves a lot to be desired. E-waste means metals such as silver, gold, palladium, copper and tin, and toxic substances such as mercury, lead, arsenic and so on.
According to the Environment Ministry, nearly 1.7 million tons of it was produced in India in 2014 and it is growing at the rate of 4-5 per cent per year. Most disposal methods are unorganised and dangerous. In India, EEE’s are crudely burnt or destroyed manually. The residue gets dumped in rivers, drains and/or solid waste dumps. Over time, this degrades the quality of land and water.
E-waste also exposes people who deal with it to health hazards such as nosebleeds, seizures, retarded children, skin cancer, paralysis and even death.
Recycling e-waste is almost impossible:
On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who believe that e-waste cannot be recycled. That’s not true. With improvements in technology, it has made it easier recycling them.
Take Cerebra Integrated Technologies for instance — the company has centres in multiple locations across India, where they collect disposed items from sellers and producers and recycle them in certified and safe manners. These items can then be reused by manufacturers or refurbishers in existing components.
It’s better to shred e-waste than refurbish it:
Many electronic devices can reuse items disposed from EEE to extend their shelf lives. Servers, CT scanners, laptops, computers, cell phones and more can be refurbished and used even though we deem them redundant. In fact, a large number of micro and small enterprises would benefit greatly from the surplus electronics of larger organisations in India.
Only obsolete EEE can be recycled:
One can recycle any device ranging from cell phones, networking devices, computers, television sets and more.
The average age of mobile devices earlier was up to 3 years. Today, it’s as low as six months before we switch to new models. Instead of stocking devices such as these at home for years and then disposing them unsafely, you can sell them to producers or resellers. Alternately, one can get in touch with Cerebra Integrated Technologies to know whether a device that you have can be recycled or not.
To sum it up, if Indian households live today like first world countries lived until three decades ago, the result would be catastrophic. The need of the hour is to step up and contribute to the cause of e-waste management. The health of the environment and people depend on it. Let us do what’s right to protect what we should like a responsible global citizen.