The spectre of eco concern

The spectre of eco concern

It is a common household practice to call the local scrap dealer to dispose not just the old newspapers and used milk packets, but also the scrapped electronic goods and expect a good price in return from the dealer.

Indians generally do not throw away goods even if they are not in working condition, and when they are buying a new electronic or electrical goods, there are always options of exchanging old ones with a new and get good offers.  But what matters is disposing of huge amount of e-waste when you are running a huge company using many electronic goods. 

Bangalore being the IT capital of India is also the largest generator of electronic waste (e-waste) in the country. Computers including laptops, desktops, monitors, keyboards, mouse, printers, CDs and cables form the major chunk beside the television sets, music systems, refrigerators and washing machines that forms the domestic e-waste.

As far as major IT companies are concerned, with  ISO 14001 for environmental standard to be maintained for re-certification, most companies give away their scrapped electronic goods to authorised vendors in e-waste recyclers certified by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB).

Cisco India Private Limited has over seven offices in Bangalore and generates over a tonne of e-waste per annum.  “We hand over all the e-waste generated to TES-AMM who have their recycle plant in Chennai and their collection centres in Bangalore.  In order to ensure that the e-waste handed over are recycled in a systematic method, an audit is also conducted,” said Dev Kishore Aradhya, Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Manager, Cisco. 

Similarly, major IT companies at Electronic City have their own authorised vendors handling their e-waste.  Besides this the Electronics City Industries' Association (ELCIA) have also set up their own inhouse e-waste collection centres in order to facilitate smaller IT and other companies to dump their scrapped electronic goods.  “There could be 20 metric tonnes of e-waste generated in Electronic City alone per month.  Although big IT companies have their own e-waste management facility, Elcia has tied up with Afeefa Spectro Alloys to dispose of e-waste from smaller companies. We ensure that all scrapped electronic goods are disposed of systematically,” said Rama NS, CEO, Elcia.

Besides authorised dealers in e-waste, there is also a considerable number of unauthorised dealers located in Goripalya and Tannery Road who have been executing the dismantling of e-waste in a very unscientific manner.  According Naveed Sharieff, proprietor, Afeefa Spectro Alloys there are thousands of unauthorised scrap dealers in the City who not just dispose e-waste unscientifically, but are also causing harm to the environment.

“Many unauthorised dealers while extracting gold from the electronic goods are disposing of the effluents into the drains.  These effluents are very dangerous if it percolates into the aquifer which can contaminate the groundwater,” he added.  Sharieff said that there many known companies in the City which are disposing their electronic goods to unauthorised dealers.

B P Shashidhara, president, Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association says that certain companies give away their useless hardware to small-scale dealers who dismantle and discard the systems or in some cases, and sell it further. “The government should take an initiative and look into the unauthorised dismantling and discarding. This cannot be controlled since there is a huge network of scrap dealers involved,” he added.

 “The government should come forward to support the awareness campaigns in a better way. We know the seriousness of the chemicals and other things contained in the hardware substances but the general public do not know. The companies should not charge huge amount to recycle e-waste. I think they should identify these industries and collect the waste.  Only about 50 per cent of the generated e-waste is discarded of in a systematic manner, without harming the environment,”said Satyanarayan, President, Consortium of Electronic Industries of Karnataka (CLIK).

The fact that something as small as a battery cell or a CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulb has the capacity of being harmful to the environment remains an unknown fact. “Every company generates e -waste. We send ours to authorised recyclers but I severely doubt if many do this. While a household generates about two to three damaged bulbs every two months, a company generates about eight to ten bulbs. Besides this, there are adapters, cartridges, printers and batteries that run out of use.

How many of us are actually aware of the safe and right method to discard them? Most of us just throw these in the dustbins along with our regular waste. At the most, we give it away to scrap dealers who take such waste along with the newspapers and further break it with a hammer or may burn it. What we need is awareness about the dangerous chemicals contained in it. Once we make these dealers aware, we will not have the wrong items going to the wrong places,” said Uma Reddy, Chairperson, CLIK.

Some of the computer training centres who give away their old systems to the scrap dealers are really not aware of what happens to them later. Archana Sridhar, Centre Head, Emind Technologies, says that she did enquire once with the scrap dealer who said that he gives it away to the polytechnic colleges who use them for students to understand the components inside the computer.

“Many colleges are using scrap computers to teach their students. But ultimately, the students end up in training centres like ours to prepare for their practical exams,” added Archana.  This computer training centre houses 32 systems mainly to train college students.

Good Initiative

Major IT companies have tied up with Rotary Club of Bangalore South and Rotary Club of RT Nagar to take an educative initiative, Sankya wherein the used computers in the company are re-distributed to schools and vocational training centres.  Chander P Mannar, one of the core team members of Sankya says that this initiative was started five years ago and till date over 7500 computers have been placed  in over 3100 schools, vocational training centres and charitable institutions in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. 

Mannar also said that the programme also ensures original operating system, applications and contents are deploys at government and unaided schools to provide computer infrastructure.   

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