Electronic waste (or e-waste) encompasses the ever-growing range of obsolete electronic devices such as computers, servers, cell phones, printers, scanners and fax machines. With newer technologies replacing older devices at a rapid speed, piling up of e-waste has assumed mind-boggling proportions. The mere size of the rising e-waste pile is startling. Something which needs to be attended to immediately in the form of a solution worked around reuse-and-recycle of the e-waste. While there are several steps that need to be taken towards this goal, a key step is the setting up of e-waste management plants. It is a sort of a green solution to a potential environmental hazard that e-waste can be.
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As for implementing various steps that will help in managing e-waste it may be noted that the age and value of an organization’s IT assets combined with its own disposal preferences will determine the range of disposal options open to it. For instance, instead of piling them up as e-waste, IT assets such as PCs, servers and laptops can be:
- Refurbished for reuse internally or via collection channels
- Refurbished for resale or charitable donations
- Dismantled to reclaim parts or components
If an organization opts for recycling, then the major components of e-waste management will be e-waste collection, sorting and transportation. E-waste recycling involves dismantling, recovery of valuable resources, sale of dismantled parts, and export of processed waste for precious metal recovery.
To ensure e-waste collection, a company could even set up its own collection-and-disposal system to return their e-waste safely to the manufacturers. It may also opt for a voluntary system with manufacturers to care for a product beyond its useful life. Another option can be a financially secure system that makes environmentally and socially responsible e-waste recycling viable.
Some recycling plants plan to have their own fleet of vehicles for collection from the generators of e-waste. They also plan to forge tie-ups with logistic companies for collection across India, as a large part of the e-waste management business involves collection of e-waste from multiple locations. This step will be very helpful, especially in cases where a company cannot send e-waste back to the manufacturers for recycling.
Another step could be that your organization manages its own e-waste. For instance, if a company already has an e-waste management process in place, it will be ideal for its representatives to visit other facilities (like ours) to see how effective the e-waste disposal is and model theirs accordingly. Effective e-waste disposal is all about ensuring automation of the entire process. It’s critical to use a dry disposal technique which does not involve any incineration.
However, if an organization does not have e-waste management in place, an IT leader may present a business case for e-waste management to his company with the aid of the following:
- As a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative
- Proper utilization of storage area for collection of e-waste
- Buy back offers, where e-waste recyclers pay for the waste
- Partnership models with manufacturers
- Data destruction at the e-waste generator’s premises
It’s essential to ensure that the recycler taking e-waste from the concerned company and correctly disposes it off. To this end, companies usually have policies in place which mandate diligence in selecting proper facilities for recycling or disposal of materials derived from e-waste. This is regardless of the fact that the company is located domestically or abroad. These businesses want to be assured that the e-waste will actually be recycled properly and that the waste from the recycling process, if any, is handled safely and consistently with the law. A certificate of environment-friendly destruction and recycling methods is issued to every e-waste generator who ensures compliance with these standards.
Apart from involving the managements of companies, creating awareness among employees will also go a long way in managing e-waste. Companies could make internal users (employees) aware of the responsibility of e-waste management in the following ways:
- Creation of awareness programs
- Shop green practices
- IT managers should be proactive in reducing the environmental impact of their department
- Ask manufacturers about the environmental efficiency of their products
- Look for RoHS-compliant (Restriction of Hazardous Substances-compliant) labeling on electronics equipment
- Get details about how obsolete products are dealt with
- Talk to e-recyclers such as Cerebra
Awarding incentives is another key step to ensure proper e-waste management. In order to encourage correct e-waste disposal, many companies like ours plan to give incentives to their customers for an electronic product return, through a “repair, refurbish approach.” Incentives are also offered to partners of e-waste generators through the “reuse” as well as “recovery” approaches. These would vary depending on the organization being dealt with.
About the author: V Ranganathan is the Managing Director of Cerebra Integrated Technologies Limited, which in collaboration with Cimelia, Singapore, is setting up India’s largest e-waste disposal plant.
(As told to Sharon D’Souza)