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India may become outsourcing hub for e-waste management

NEW DELHI: Waste it. That’s what e-waste management companies are urging people to do. As long as consumers discard electronic waste, this is one sector that will not face the heat of the economic slowdown, believe experts.

Consider the figures — there are 58 million television units in India currently that will reach 234 million by 2015. By the end of 2010 there will be around 75 million computers in India from 15 million now since the life cycle of a PC has come down to 3-4 years from 7-8 years a few years back, and the segment is suffering from an extremely high obsolescence rate of 30% per year.

Similarly, the Indian mobile handset market is set to zoom across the 100 million mark soon. E-waste management firms claim that now it is possible to recycle around 98% of a cellphone. At the same time, memory devices, MP3 players and iPods are the new additions to e-waste production. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nitin Gupta, CEO of Attero Recycling, a Noida-based start up in the business of e-waste management that recently attracted $6.3 million in funding from venture capital firms NEA-IndoUS Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, says, “We are looking at the possibility of India becoming the outsourcing hub for e-waste management. It has a huge potential, as the electronics industry is growing very fast across the globe and people have started addressing the issue of properly recycling e-waste.” And it is time that they did. Globally, electronics is the largest and fastest growing manufacturing industry, having surpassed one trillion US dollars. And e-waste management firms such as, Attero have a lot to look forward to, since it takes only $2 to recycle a single PC in India compared to $20 in US.

At present, there are almost two million old PCs ready for disposal in India, according to industry estimates. And preliminary data suggests that the total Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) generation in India is approximately a mammoth 146000 tonnes per year. M K Soni, CMD of Infotreck Syscom, a Mumbai-based e-waste management and recycling company, feels that India certainly has the potential.

Mr Soni says, “There is a huge margin for Indian companies to fill the gap between the number of existing firms and the number of companies needed to recycle the amount of e-waste produced globally. This is one sector that will not face the heat of economic slowdown. Even if there is a global meltdown, people still need to communicate and that means business for companies like us.” The main source for e-waste remains imports, government, public and private sector discards, PC retailers, manufacturers, secondary market of old PCs and individual households. Around 30,000 computers become obsolete every year from the IT industry in Bangalore alone.

Three categories of WEEE account for almost 90% of the generation: large household appliances: 42.1%, information and communications: 33.9% and consumer electronics: 13.7%. Developed nations dump an estimated 500 million tonnes of e-waste yearly in emerging countries. Of this almost 70% of the waste ends up in China, making it the world’s largest dumping ground for e-waste. In India, e- waste is mainly collected by recyclers abroad and sold to waste traders from India. Then it lands in ports like Mumbai, Chennai, Cochin, Kandla and passes through customs as second hand, mixed metal scrap, for charity/donations to end up in recycling units in Delhi and Mumbai, Chennai amongst others.

But for e-waste management companies here, the main problem lies with procuring a license to import e-waste. Till date no license has been issued to any firm. “There are three stages involved in procuring a license. One has to get a clearance from Ministry of Environment and Forests, get a no objection certificate from the state pollution board and then get a certificate from the Central Pollution Control Board. So far in India, there is no integrated system in place and companies are involved in mechanical disintegration,” says Mr Gupta.


Source: Times of India

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