Toxic Trade News / 5 July 2008
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India Inc is waking up to e-waste management
by The Economic Times (India)
5 July 2008 (New Delhi) – India’s booming mobile, PC and TV sales is forcing the country to address an issue that has long been dismissed an a concern of developed western nations: e-waste. Consider the figures — the Indian PC market is on a high with sales of PCs and notebook registering 6.34 million units in 2006-07, while mobile phone market posts a sales figure touching the 93 million units mark in 2007; televisions are expected to touch the 234 million mark in 2015 from 58 million units currently.

This translates to the country also having a high obsolesce rate of 30% per year with an estimated 2.2 million computers and around 14 million mobile handsets that will be dumped by end of this year. In India, the total e-waste generation is approximately 3,80,000 tonnes per year.

India is also receiving large amounts of e-waste through trade and illegal imports. Although the Hazardous Waste Rules of 1989 prohibit the import of e-waste without prior permission from the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), import of such wastes is allowed for processing and reuse of raw materials upon merit from the state pollution control boards.

The import of second hand computers less than 10 years old and donations of computers to non-profit organisations are also permitted. Moreover, an estimated 50% to 80% of e-waste is exported from the USA and dumped in countries like India, where environment protection regulations are not stringent.

In India, a major importer of second-hand electrical and electronic equipment, most e-waste recycling occurs in the informal sector. While disposal of e-waste is a huge concern, it also represents a potentially rich source of secondary raw materials. Almost 50% of the PC’s sold in India are products from the secondary market.

According to study conducted by MAIT, only about 40% of e-waste generated annually is recycled and the chunk of it is handled by urban slums-based informal sector. While Chennai, Mumbai and Karnataka have formal mechanism to tackle e-waste in their respective regions, Delhi doesn’t have any such formal recycler in place.

“Disposing off of these electronic goods are hazardous and government till date does not have proper guidelines in place to tackle e-waste and 94% of the organisations in India do not have a policy with regard to disposal of IT products. The awareness in the household segment is at an abysmal 30%,” said Greenpeace toxic campaigner Ramapathi. He said the solution is extended producer responsibility (EPR), wherein the producer takes the responsibility of procuring the obsolete system from the end user and recycles it.

“We extend our recycling facility to all our customers regardless of the fact, when and where they are purchased the product, “ said HCL Infosystems executive vice-president George Paul. However, Gartner feels that producer take-back programmes alone cannot deal with growing piles of electronic waste.

Facing flak from environmentalists over the issue, corporates have now realised the benefit of producing green products. According to Greenpeace, Green IT practices can wring in cost saving of up to 20%. Corporates like Nokia, Lenovo and HCL have formulated free take back programs and have outsourced recycling facility for old systems.

Motorola and LG have joined Nokia and Sony Ericsson in selling phones without these toxic chemicals. Sony has a wide range of products including walkman, camcorders and a digital camera that are partially BFR and PVC free.

“All our operations are 100% RoHS compliant. We think effective recycling of e-waste is also important for which we offer a free service to our customers, wherein we track the obsolete systems and take them back to be recycled,” said Lenovo e-waste manager Rahul. (The RoHS Directive restricts use of certain hazardous substances in electronic equipment. This directive has been adopted in India too by IT corporates like HCL, Lenovo and IBM.)

Nokia, which commands 60% of the mobile phone market, is set to launch 40 mobile handsets this year. “Nokia 3110 Evolve, a mobile device with bio-covers made from more than 50% renewable material, is already making sales in the market. It comes with energy efficient charger, using 94% less energy than the Energy Star requirements. We have also made all our products PVC-free,” said Nokia India marketing director Devinder Kishore.

Chanting the Go Green mantra Samsung too recently launched its first mobile phone with ‘bio-plastic’ made from natural material extracted from corn. Samsung has also excluded use of heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, lead and applied water-soluble coating in its products.

Samsung plans to turn all its product models PVC and BFR free by 2010. “All our mobile phones meets EU WEEE standards, that is to say more than 65% of the product is recyclable,” said Samsung Telecommunications India country head Sunil Dutt.

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