Five ways to tackle the problem of e-waste
by Karan Thakkar, Founder of The Recycling Company

All of us are more aware now than ever before that we live in an era of geological time unlike any other. The future that beckons to us is one that will certainly be shaped by our actions, and the present, human-dominated epoch is a clear indicator of the extent to which our presence is transforming the planet. However, if there is one thing that characterizes this epoch and defines its planet-altering abilities, it is the advent of technology.

Modern technology has permeated every aspect of our lives and has been instrumental in charting our path to progress. Our gadgets and gizmos dictate the rhythms of our waking hours and intertwine the individual threads of our existence in a wider, interdependent global network. This network facilitates communication and the exchange of data and ideas in the blink of an eye. Even so, it must be noted that as humanity propels itself forward on the headwinds of technological advancement, we spare little thought to the trail of electronic waste we leave behind in our wake. 

The problem of e-waste becomes an issue for our serious consideration when we realise that though the human capacity for growth is limitless, the space we have on our planet is very much limited. The imbalance in the way of our living, which disregards the consequences of the waste we generate can prove to be one of our biggest challenges, and he voiced as much in a Bakstage session on the subject of managing e-waste, as nearly 300 people listened. 

While the prospect for the future may seem bleak when all the waste we are choking our planet with is considered (Our country India alone generates 4 million tonnes of electric waste), here are some easy solutions to the problem that can be implemented on individual and community levels. 

1. Understanding circular economy 

One of the most fundamental problems with our way of life lies in the fact that we have opted for a linear approach when it comes to handling our waste: We buy a product, and after it has served us for the duration of its lifetime, we throw it away without a second thought. We must comprehend, however, that a circular approach serves us better in the long run. In a circular economy, a product is examined from all angles- from the procurement of the raw materials and the manufacturing process to the end product and the waste generated. He also cited the example of one of the Disneyland parks where the waste collected is used to create electricity for the park, thus eliminating its toxic accumulation. We can also integrate a circular economy into our lives if we think about every link in the chain of production and disposal, and deal with our waste accordingly. 

2. Discarding our e-waste through the right channels

Well-functioning electronic goods are not in themselves hazardous, but danger arises when they near the end of their lives. This is when they become potentially hazardous, and therefore, the way we treat a used electronic product (such as our own used laptops and phones) is a matter of utmost import. There are many ways to dispense of such products, but the best thing we can do for the environment is to segregate the waste properly at its source and give it to recyclers who not only prevent your e-waste from becoming a burden on the planet but also help in the potential prevention of data leaks from discarded phones or laptops. 


3. Taking advantage of a progressive mindset

India is one of the few countries that has e-waste rules in place, with the last decade providing the answers to questions that deal with producer and recycler responsibilities. As a huge worldwide market, global best practices come to India naturally, and this will also ensure that multiple companies put in efforts to use greener products and alternatives to ease the burden of pollution on the country. As laws are enforced and corporations start to uphold their responsibilities, a wave of positive change will sweep over the country. Additionally, as the amount of funding to social sectors continues to see a rise, companies with a higher environmental score will also get their rightful due, thus making an impact at the national level.

4. Reaching out to NITI Aayog (Circular Economy in E-waste)

Government think tank NITI Aayog recently published a report on the Circular Economy in e-waste. Government bodies like the NITI Aayog are very accessible and are taking this issue seriously. If you are an eco-warrior with innovative ideas of your own about how best to protect the environment and deal with e-waste, you can write to NITI Aayog. Karan encourages all the citizens of the nation and its young, vibrant youth to work enthusiastically and tirelessly on their ideas and connect with NITI Aayog for advice and support, should they require it. 

5. Learning from the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a stark reminder of the large-scale damage that we have wrought, and the need to make fundamental changes to our lifestyle to reverse the catastrophic effects of this damage. It has taught us to consider all our problems one at a time and come up with long-term solutions to the various issues that plague the planet, all built upon the foundation of recycling. 

The need of the hour is for us to understand that by managing our e-waste appropriately, we implement the most important learning we have imbibed in the last few decades: Tremendous progress must always be accompanied by efficient amplification of its benefits and a prudent moderation of its evils.