Imploding Story of E-Waste and Exploding Narrative of E-responsibility


IMG_20180126_083853995Srinivasan leaves his office in Bengaluru where the lights and air-conditioners are switched-off when sensors planted in his office notice that he is leaving. Srinivasan leaves his office in Bengaluru where the lights and air-conditioners are switched-off when sensors planted in his office notice that he is leaving.

He is prompted on his e-watch how much time it would take for the elevator to arrive on his floor based on his movement-recognition by the sensors at the entry of the corridor.  So, he utilizes that time to check on his smartphone, connected to his refrigerator, what are items he needs to buy on the way in his Electric car. His smartphone has already received a message from the sensor in the car that there is enough charge in the battery to reach home if he takes a particular route, as other routes are jammed with heavy traffic.

Welcome to the world of the Internet of Things, Cloud Networking and Machine-to-Machine learning.

Numbers are crazy but as per the presentations were given by Ericsson’s former CEO Hans Vestburg in 2010 and, repeated by Cisco, that by 2020, 50 billion devices and machines would be talking to each other. That will be about 6 times the human population. By 2030, as per one estimate from IBM,  1 trillion devices would be connected to each other in the cloud networking- more than 100 times the human population.

There are more than 5 billion mobile phone users among the population of 7.5 billion. That would mean 100 percent market-penetration for digital dialogue. Half of the world already uses the Internet and digital social media. Electronic and electrical appliances Countries are presently competing with each other for declaring the targets of 100 percent Electric Cars ‘earlier than thou’. Growth rates of EV in many countries are more than whooping 60 percent. After the announcement of aggressive policies in the manufacture of EVs, China, France, UK, India’s EV story is ‘on the verge of imploding’ as per Indian press.  Today’s global car population of more than 1 billion would be double by 2040. Home appliances growth rates in India is more than 10 percent. Imagine the horrendous amount of e-waste generated as the new models arrive and when the existing appliances and devices retire.

Scary? If yes, then the story is not even complete.

The sheer numbers of not only sensors but the number of Lithium batteries needed in sharply growing market of Electric Vehicles ( EVs), driverless cars,  mobile and smartphones, clean energy storage , along with rare-earth metals needed for sensors and PCBs for Internet-based computing , every day electronic and electrical appliances , and CCTVs not only threatens the cyber-security but , and more nerve-racking and daunting challenge is  about the E-waste.

Electronic waste, or E-waste, refers to all items of electrical and electronic equipment (also known as EEE) and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of re-use.

That waste is the dark side of the bright story of the global future. These devices, when discarded for the new versions or at the end of their life, would pose life-threatening consequences to the whole life on the earth. Improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through open burning or in dumpsites, pose significant risks to the environment and human health. Unethical and illegal employment of the minors in segregating and retrieving the useful parts of the E-waste has been the subject of emerging social evil in the developing countries.

The good news however is, the sound management of e-waste starting with legislation and its enforcement can create new areas of employment and drive entrepreneurship.

Recognising that future ‘Srinivasan’ immersed in the Digital India of 2030, is simple ‘Srini’ studying the colleges of today, TERRE Policy Centre, a not-for-profit organization has launched E-waste management movement across the campuses. It is part of the global project supported by UNESCO,  Smart Campus Cloud Network ( SCCN).

Dr.Yogesh Bhalerao, award-winning Principal of the MIT Academy of Engineering in a town near Pune, while launching the E-waste management scheme in the campus stated that “we are determined to make wealth from modern waste through the best practices like prolonging the functionality of electronics, repair, reuse, recycle and reprocessing”. He has recently won the Pune University level award for setting up innovative educational practices.

E-waste contains precious metals including lithium, gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, but it also contains valuable bulky materials such as iron, copper and aluminium, along with plastics that can be reprocessed in plasma reactors and recycled. Overall, UN University ( UNU) estimates that the value of the precious metal in e-waste is worth USD 60 Billion. “Our Academy would set up research projects and start-ups in smart repairing, redistributing, refurbishing, remanufacturing prior to recycling of materials”, added Dr.Bhalerao. Bhalerao.

Indian Government under PM Modi in 2016 has issued the E-Waste (Management) Rules that place responsibility on electronic goods manufacturing companies and bulk consumers to collect and channel e-waste from consumers to authorised re-processing units. Firms are now required to set yearly collection targets linked to their production numbers. Step in the right direction to enhance the liability of the companies if the enforcement is effective.

“We are now encouraging the campuses of educational institutes to take lead in demonstrating the E-waste management in campuses and developing an alliance with the business for policy enforcement”, said   Rajendra Shende, Chairman of TERRE Policy Centre, former Director of UNEP and IIT-alumni. “

After all the campuses are the perfect hotspots to build policymakers of tomorrow to address the emerging challenges of digital India’, he added. END

Story by Smart Campus Cloud Network (, TERRE Policy Centre.



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