Shedding e-waste, in good taste

NOVEL SOLUTION

Shedding e-waste, in good taste

Environmental waste management is a career that accommodates both Arts and Science streams by giving room for business opportunity and expertise.

Do you remember the first time  someone gifted you a digital watch? Well of course, you do. For most of us, that marked the beginning of the future. Today, twenty years later, we can barely keep up. Mobile phones, record players, fancy air-conditioners, laptops, remote controls, television — technology has become an integral part of our lives.

It has helped us progress in leaps and bounds into a digital future, and made our lives easier. But the pace at which we throw away the old is frightening. Where do we throw away our old electronic products? The answer is, probably not too far away.

It is this that caught the attention of Yuma Fujimaki, a young student designer from The Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry, Tokyo. One day, walking home after classes at the university, he came across an old computer tossed in the garbage. Out of curiosity, he took it home and took it apart. After hours of pondering over the broken bits of e-waste in front of him, he slowly pieced together his first accessory.

Certainly, this is not something everyone is equipped to do. Discarded electronics are dangerous pollutants and hard to deal with. Yuma Fujimaki firmly believes that it takes patience and some knowledge of metals if you intend to work on any old parts at random.

“There are dangerous materials at times so you have to be really attentive. For instance, when you file lead or aluminium, you have to make sure that you don’t breathe any toxic fumes.”

E-waste is of serious concern in developing countries like India and China for numerous reasons. According to a UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) study, it is believed that e-waste in India will rise by 500 per cent by 2020. This is largely due to people disposing fast moving technology like mobile phones, computers, music devices and televisions constantly.

To add to this, over 70 per cent of the discarded electronics from developed countries like the United States are dumped in India (BBC, 2003). Responsible recycling is a tough call given that regulations in India are still far from concrete. But on a positive note, this has created a huge opportunity for students in both Science and Arts streams.

Scope for the Science stream
Environmental studies and e-waste management are still niche courses in India, and this has only increased the need for more experts who can tackle this ever increasing problem.

Students can opt to pursue Environmental Management and Engineering, which is an established stream or opt for a PG Diploma programme to complement a pure science education. A strong foundation in Environmental Studies is strongly recommended for most professionals. Similarly, a few can also opt for a BE/BTech degree in Metallurgical Engineering.

Institutes that offer a BE with specialisation in Environmental Studies
*National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nehru Marg, Nagpur, 440020, India
*Delhi College of Engineering, New Delhi - 110 042
*Andhra University, College of Engineering, Vishakhapatnam - 530 003
*Gujarat University, LD College of Engineering, Ahmedabad - 380 015
*Indian Institute of Environment Management (SIES), Navi Mumbai -
400 706
*University of Chennai, Chennai - 600 005
*Centre for Ecological Science, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore - 560 012
*Centre for Environmental Studies, Indian Institute of Technology, Powai, Mumbai - 400 076
*Indian Institute of Ecology and Environment, Maidan Garhi Road, New Delhi -
110 030
*School of Environmental Studies, JNU, New Delhi – 67
*Indian Institute of Materials Management, Navi Mumbai - 400614

Scope for the Arts stream
The need for creativity is often underestimated in areas of social and environmental science, but the trend is moving upward steadily. Today, people are more environmentally conscious than ever before, alternating to eco-friendly products instead of plastic and other non-biodegradable substances.

No matter what your art or design skill, there is plenty of room for business opportunity with beautiful things you can create out of e-waste. Even if you don’t have a formal degree, there are many ways that you could use your skills at home to start a business.

Jewellery design
Jewellery design students with a basic understanding of metals can create exciting accessories with e-waste. Yuma Fujimaki, who now teaches jewellery design at the Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry, Tokyo, and has successfully created jewellery believes that there is tremendous potential in this too. “Any material can be used to create new jewellery,” he says, “what matters is that the outcome is beautiful.”

Students can equip themselves with a degree from National Institute of Jewellery Design and Technology, New Delhi or Jewellery Design and Technology Institute, Noida.

E-waste art
Here’s something most Fine Art students often overlook. Scrap metal from junk piles can be infused into any art form an artist desires, and the demand is sky-high for beautiful modern art creations. A good example of such talent is Australian artist Alison Schutt, whose love for inculcating e-waste into her creations led to a successful business venture called Haasch, which makes beautiful products out of old industrial waste.

While a basic Bachelor of Fine Arts degree is enough to introduce you to the nuances of art and provide a basic foundation in artistic skill, a certificate course is sufficient if you are a homemaker. Institutes like the Symbiosis Institute of Design in Pune and the Sir J J School of Art offer excellent courses in art.

Pursuing a career in Environmental Waste Management can not only be challenging and rewarding but can also offer fulfilment. The fact that the demand for professionals is slowly increasing on the economic front, also means that people are becoming more aware of how their choices can affect the world around them.

The road ahead is certainly rough, but as people like Yuma Fujimaki would put it, one that we can change to a smooth one with a little bit of inspiration.

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