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The past decade has seen the rapid expansion of technology intensive industry in the country, together with a staggering increase in the use of electronic equipment in households. This explosion of consumption has generated massive amounts of hazardous electronic wastes that have compounded the problems of waste disposal. It is to discuss the scope and solutions of this problem that a seminar was held on responsible Recycling of E-wastes at MIG Club at Bandra on March 17.
An initiative by Times Grey Cell presented by the Economic Times, together with E-waste recyclers Ecoreco, this seminar intended to get both regulators and spokespersons from the industry on the same platform and thrash out the issues concerning recycling of E-wastes. With 35 per cent of total E-wastes generated in the country, Mumbai’s condition is especially precarious. According to information from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) Mumbai – Pune region together produce a staggering 50,000 metric tonnes of e-waste in the year 2007
Called WEE or Wastes from Electronic and Electrical equipments, these wastes have grown exponentially over the years and pose a serious threat to our environment. “If improperly disposed by burning or dumping, harmful chemicals like palladium zinc and lead can seep into the environment. Our reasons to recycle should be twin pronged and should, firstly to prevent pollution and secondly to recover metals that could be reused,” says Sanjay Khandare, of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) that has been working to suggest legislation to curb the menace of hazardous wastes.
In a country where an overwhelming proportion of e-wastes end up with kabbadiwalas and paper marts, the disposal and recycling of these wastes has become a crude process, doing more harm than good. “Recycling of E-wastes is a high margin lucrative business. However in order that it is done in a systematic fashion without any fallout, it needs to be done by professionals. Hopefully the municipal corporation will take cognisance of this fact,” said Noel Thomas chief information officer of Integreon.
The panellists also discussed the woeful lack of awareness about this critical issue. “It is high time that steps are taken to make the future generations aware of the hazards of E-wastes. Including lessons on E-waste in the school curriculum needs to be considered,” said Subhash Thankachan, general manager and zonal head of NIIT.
Although minute steps have been taken to curb the E-waste menace these are insufficient, the panellists pointed out. “In the garb of second hand good, a lot of e-wastes are illegally being transported to India. The government needs to identify gaps in the legal system to plug these holes. Unless the regulatory mechanism is strengthened no headway can be made in binging down the pollution caused by E-wastes,” explained BK Soni, chairman of Eco Recycling Ltd.
In response to this MPCB representative Sanjay Khandare informed, “The central Pollution Control Bureau has already prepared the guidelines as to how E- wastes are to be treated and disposed and what are the parameters and limits that need to be kept in mind while doing the same. We will be following these guidelines stringently from hereon.”
Panellists also highlighted the need to support the fledgling recycling industry. “The recycling of E-waste needs to be made profitable. An entire value chain consisting of users, manufacturers and suppliers needs to come into force if the recycling industry is to survive. The government should do everything to support this industry,” mentioned Kunal Pande, director, IT Advisory Services, KPMG.
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