Sunday , 24 March 2019

Turning off the knob on e-waste in Goa

Ahead of World Environment Day, it is obvious that not much progress is made on the electronic waste disposal front either by industry or government, reports Serilda Coutinho

Each year World Environment Day in the state attracts a lot of attention from NGO’S, industry organizations and the government authorities. Initiatives are taken up at various levels for a healthier environment.  A day when seminars, workshops and drives are conducted to religiously practice the 3 R’s of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. But are these initiatives followed up or is this love for mother earth a one day show for the sake of publicity?

The issue of e-waste management was in the limelight during World Environment Day celebration of 2017. A 10 day drive was initiated in Panjim city on the occasion. According to published reports the pilot drive managed to unearth more than four ton of e-waste.  Industry associations like MAIT, Nasscom have conducted awareness programs in the past. However the enthusiasm of the drive and the initiative towards safe disposal of e-waste at the state level now seems to have died out.

This is evident from the fact that currently there aren’t any concrete steps taken by the government to tackle the menace created by waste generated electronically. On inquiring about the progress, Sanjit Rodrigues, managing director, Goa Solid Waste Management said  that, the government is working on institutionalizing the e-waste collection process and, “the exact time it will take to put the system in place cannot be estimated”.

Nalini de Souza, chairman, Communicare Trust an NGO in Dona Paula that was associated with the pilot drive on e-waste collection carried out last year also feels that there has been no follow up. But at an individual level, she said that, they have tried to reach out to various local schools that want to dispose their e-waste and bridge the gap between authorized e-waste recyclers and consumers.

According to the E-waste management rules 2016, the waste has been categorized into two categories of electrical and electronic equipment that consist of IT and telecommunication equipment. While the other category of consumer electricals and electronics includes TVs, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, fluorescent and other mercury containing lamps.

The main feature, of these rules, is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) that makes the producing company responsible for treatment and disposal of its used products. Compliance with this rule is difficult in Goa due to few manufacturers of electronics and the increasing presence of the unauthorised sector.

E-waste disposal if not carried out by authorized dismantlers and recyclers can have hazardous effects on health. Ashley Delaney, Group Ten Plus, Saligao, authorised collector, GSCPB,  is concerned over the growing demand for raddiwalas    (unauthorised scrap collectors) over authorized e-waste collectors. He says “People sell their e-waste to raddiwalas just to get a little more money but they aren’t aware that the lack of proper knowledge of the various metals and hazardous gases from these electronic gadgets can leave a huge impact on health and the environment”.

Soham Prabhu, proprietor, Global E-waste Management System, Nessai, a GSPCB authorised dismantler, says “The lower rates offered in exchange for the IT related e-waste is due to the high cost involved in logistics and labor, as Goa does not have its own e-waste recycling plant. E-waste like tube lights and cartridges scrap does not offer much of returns as we have to pay from our pockets to ensure a safe disposal of it.”

Post the E-waste rule 2016 only a handful of private e-waste recyclers and dismantlers who have managed to adhere to the new guidelines have been authorized by the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) to carry out the disposal process.  This has considerably reduced the number of authorized e-waste collectors in Goa. However a major shortcoming faced by the e-waste collectors in Goa is the lack of a recycling unit.

When asked about the reason for the same Prabhu explains that, since the e-waste collected is not in huge quantities the turn-over from the business is too small to start a dedicated unit for e-waste recycling purpose. However he strongly feels that if they receive the required   support from the government authorities and work together on the matter of e-waste management then this source of urban mining can easily generate ample of employment opportunities and revenue.

Hassle free e-waste disposal also requires equal contribution from the public who easily fall prey to the bait of the unauthorised collectors.  To solve the concern of e-waste collection in residential areas Prabhu suggests that in buildings that have a society, residents can get together and store their e-waste in a common area and arrange to have it collected (free of cost) by authorised agencies.

As consumers all of us want to have latest gadgets, the newest smart phones, etc. However disposing the old is a problem. E-waste recycling is a viable economic option in many states but not in Goa where the entire eco-system is yet in a very nascent stage. But if e-waste management receives the required support from the concerned authorities a safe disposal of it is not a far dream.

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