Cheap, old mobile phones are being replaced by feature phones and smartphones; CRT monitors and TVs with LCDs and Plasmas and the CD player by an iPod or rather the old iPod with a newer one. So, what about all the older gadgets? Most people tend to dump it into their bins or give it away to the local kabadiwala so that they end up getting at least some money for the dead device. However, not everyone is aware that these devices contain valuable and harmful elements that are difficult to dispose off but can be reused by sending them away for recycling.
Informal recyclers (via kabadiwalas) have undeveloped and highly unsafe recycling practices. So, giving away completely damaged or utter useless electronic devices like an old computer, printer, mobile phone, TV or so on to your local kabadiwala isn't a viable option, or rather it's a complete no no. They may use some working parts and simply send the rest for disposal. These useless components contain toxic materials that cannot be easily disposed and have adverse affects on the environment and eventually on human life. For instance, your old CRT TV has significant amount of lead which, if not disposed properly, can affect human nervous system; batteries powering devices contain nickel, cadmium, silver, lithium and other dangerous metals. Cadmium can severely damage the lungs and cause death. By recycling, all these metals can be re-used, which also means conserving our natural resources. So, you are reusing the natural resources without hampering the environment or human beings. All these equipments can be refurbished, recycled instead of just being landfilled or burnt.
The problem is most of the consumers aren't even aware of the hazards e-waste can cause to the environment. Nokia’s global consumer survey reveals that 44 percent of old mobile phones are lying in drawers at home and not being recycled. If every mobile phone user across the world recycled just one unwanted phone at the end of its life, it could prevent nearly 240,000 tonnes of raw materials from being mined and result in saving energy and reducing greenhouse gases by as much as taking 4 million cars off the road for a year.
Guide to Greener Electronics – Wipro takes the first spot, followed by HP and Nokia
However, initiatives by the government and several companies like Wipro, HP, Nokia and more have slowly started to set the wheel in motion. According to Raghavendra Prakash, General Manager and Business Head at Wipro Systems & Technology & IAS initiative, ”The awareness amongst consumers and customers has seen a major positive change from the time we started this initiative. Legislation has also helped in increasing sensitivity in this area. Wipro takes the top spot at green initiatives with its Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).”
In India, we have very few options to go with while opting for recycling our devices. If you’ve been throwing your older CRT monitor, CD player or phone, you can use one of the e-waste recycling services listed below.
This is an extremely convenient option to get your device recycled and the guys at Attero are doing their bit to spread recycling awareness among masses as well. Attero collects the e-waste from across the nation and also has a website called Atterobay.com, which we found quite handy for those who have their non-working phones lying in their desks. You just have to visit the Atterobay website and find the model number of the device, then fill in some quick information about the phone like its working condition, wear and tear of the device, how old it is and so on, and the website calculates the amount you may get for the device. You can either choose to get the money or send it for donation or Attero will plant a tree on your behalf.
Key in the details about your phone
Attero will soon send a package in which you have to seal the device and this package will be picked by the company. Further, the phone will be scrutinised to see if the information you have provided matches with the condition of the phone and the final amount payable will be decided. However, if you aren't happy with the resale value, then you can simply choose not to sell it and Attero will return back your device.
We spoke to Rohan Gupta, COO, Attero Recycling, who tells us that Attero has several collection points and the one in Mumbai is situated at the outskirts of the city. “We have sufficient collection centers and we plan to expand depending upon the demand. We recycle just about all devices from CTRs and touch panels to printers and refrigerators. We are the only company which does complete end to end recycle from extraction to recycling, and also ensure that 98 to 99 percent recycling of the e-waste,” adds Rohan.
On asking if people are really aware about the importance of recycling and effects of harmful materials on environment, he tells us that people are slowly realising the importance of recycling. However, he points out that considering the phone equipped population of the country, the percentage of people could be just negligible. “Traditionally, India is a country where a lot of products are picked by rag pickers and are not properly recycled. So, we educate these guys and have been collecting e-waste from them in the last couple of years. As they may not be able to recycle the device properly, we tell them that they don't have to recycle the e-waste and we will pay them. We have this initiative going on for a long time,” says Rohan.
Ecoreco is an Andheri, Mumbai based e-waste recycling service that recycles your older devices. Ecoreco has its recycle facility at Vasai, which is at the outskirts of Mumbai, and has a collection office at Andheri. Anuj Maheshwari, Marketing Manager at Ecoreco, tells us, “An individual can drop in the scrapped device at our Andheri office or the Vasai facility, whichever convenient. If the quantum is higher, we can arrange to collect as and when our vehicle passes by the area. We have our own fleet of vehicles, strategic tie ups with leading domestic logistic and freight companies to collect e-waste.” However, he says that Ecoreco doesn't have any tie-ups with local vendors or retailers or any other sources to collect e-waste.
Anuj tells us that the consumer will get paid for the scrap devices, but one shouldn't expect it to be much because Ecoreco is bearing transportation (in case of bulk quantity) and other charges. Ecoreco is leading in e-waste management, Data Destruction (Deletion, Degaussing, Physical Destruction), Lamp Recycling and Reverse Logistics. Talking about awareness of e-waste recycling, Anuj thinks it has increased over past few years, but there’s still a lot to be done to sensitise and educate the mass.
Do not throw e-waste in a dust bin (Image Credit: Getty Images)
Basically, Ecoreco collects old hardware from individuals and corporates. The waste is then transported to the recycling plant and finally the e-waste is processed and useful materials like copper, iron, nickel and, in some cases gold, are segregated and sold to the commodities markets.
As we said, we have really limited options wherein a consumer can directly reach to recyclers. However, there are other sources like NGOs and organisations who may occasionally take up such initiatives. Besides, there are recyclers like ULTrustSolutions, a service that recycles, collects and safely disposes electrical and electronic scrap. However, we were informed that users can send their electronic devices by courier to ULTrustSolutions and the e-waste recycling firm will pay them depending upon the weight of the devices, irrespective of them being in working condition or not.
According to the e-waste management rules (2011) set by the Central Pollution Control board, the producer is the one responsible for “setting up collection centres or take-back (electronic) systems either individually or collectively”. However, the mechanism for collection can be decided by individual producer and further details can be obtained from the state pollution control boards. The rules apply to everyone starting from producers, consumers or bulk consumers, collection centres, dismantlers and recyclers of e-waste involved in manufacture, sale, purchase and processing of electrical and electronic equipment.
The green recycling initiative has also been taken up by almost all renowned companies. Leading the crop is Wipro (it offers a range of devices including desktops,notebooks and servers), and by a huge margin, according to the Guide to Greener Electronics (Greenpeace) ranking system. Wipro began its pro-active e-waste recycling initiative in 2006 to educate and enable the entire supply chain to reduce and manage e-waste. We spoke to Raghavendra Prakash, General Manager and Business Head – Wipro Systems & Technology & IAS, who tells us that Wipro has created an ecosystem through localised re-cyclers and also took the initiative of product & component reuse through their service network.
Basically, customers who want to recycle their e-waste can contact Wipro (firstname.lastname@example.org) or its partners. Wipro then collects discarded systems from customers on behalf of the recycling agency. They provide these discarded computers to vendors certified by Pollution control board to recycle the parts. They ensure the collection and transport of systems from customer to final waste recycling point. However, this support is limited to recycling of e-waste related to Wipro products being retired by the customer. In support of Extended Producer Responsibility, Wipro takes physical and financial responsibility towards the recycling of Wipro Products. The company monitors the recycling of e-wastes by agency according to guidelines given by the relevant pollution control boards.
“As an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) initiative, we are taking steps in creating awareness amongst consumers and customers through product manuals, specific customer events informing about e-waste management and also through our websites. There is also a helpline where customers can reach us for help and support in this area,” said Raghavendra Prakash.
Raghavendra Prakash, General Manager and Business Head at Wipro Systems
Another company known for its green initiatives is Nokia, which is instrumental in introducing the mobile phone era in India. Nokia started its mobile phone recycling initiative in 2008 through its “Take Back” recycle campaigns. Now, the company isn’t in any recycling business or doesn’t pay for your old devices, it only encourages e-waste recycling, especially phones, through various campaigns. It has over 1400 recycling points wherein you can drop your old scrapped mobile phone and ensure that it is recycled by Nokia’s recycling partners. It has various campaigns along with several partners to educate school and college students about the importance of e-waste recycling, create awareness on mobile phone recycling amongst trade, collect old mobile phones and accessories for recycling, a door to door collection initiative for corporates and so on.
“In India, 90 percent of e-waste finds its way to the informal recyclers (via kabadiwalas) whose recycling practices are very rudimentary, highly unsafe and cause severe environmental contamination. In Delhi NCR we started a pilot project which leverages the reach/collection strength of the kabadiwalas (the informal sector) and the recycling technology of responsible recyclers. The program is gaining traction as the capacity builds amongst the kabadiwalas. In the first month we collected 3000+ old phones. The program should lead to a significant increase in collection of old mobile phones and accessories from households, retail and repair stores,” the Nokia spokesperson told us.
The company works with approved recyclers and currently partners with 10 companies who together have around 80 facilities worldwide where obsolete electronics can be recycled. Moreover, the company has ensured that all the material used in their phones can be easily recycled.
Nokia's initiative at recycling older phones
One of the main reasons that could lead to e-waste recycling is a greener attitude, which will be possible with more awareness campaigns. However, only campaigns wouldn't be enough; we need recycling services which should be easily accessible. Users should be able to conveniently dispose off their devices for recycling, without any hassles. On the other hand, it is nice to see that an Indian company has taken the top position as the greenest firm, which makes us think – are our policies better when it comes to green initiatives?
So, what do you usually do with older, useless gadgets?
Main image credit: Harshad Gujare