KOCHI: Our insatiable appetite for technology is directly proportional to the humongous pile of e-waste generated. Being the commercial capital of the state, Kochi tops the list in the highest amount of e-waste generated by the private sector while Thiruvananthapuram comes first in the government sector, as per reports. According to a survey by the Clean Kerala Company Limited, formed under the Local Self-Government Department, 1,65,168.57 tonnes of e-waste were collected from across the state in 2018, almost double the 89,700.75 tonnes collected in 2017. This exponential increase is indeed a source of worry. To tackle the problem, scientific disposal is the need of the hour.
Disposing of e-waste
Lack of awareness is the root cause behind e-waste piling up at our homes. The level of ignorance is such that even the dealers at Penta Menaka Commercial Complex in Kochi, which hosts a multitude of electronic shops, are unaware of the e-waste discarded or the means of segregation. “E-waste came into the spotlight post the E-waste Management Rules in 2016. Earlier, electronic equipment were mostly dumped at a local scrap dealer's yard.
At the same time, people see monetary value in electronic goods, so instead of disposing them of, they are sold to dealers,” said Nagesh Kumar, state nodal officer of e-waste and assistant manager, Clean Kerala Company Limited. When disposed of unscientifically, hazardous elements such as lead, cadmium and mercury vapours contaminate groundwater and water bodies and enter the food chain. The after-effects last for generations.
While Clean Kerala Company collects e-waste from government and private institutions, schools and city corporations, households can deposit them at recovery centres and material collection facilities at the panchayat level. E-waste at these centres will be assembled by the company at Kanjikode in Palakkad, which is then recycled at a facility in Hyderabad.
Individuals can also avail the facility by contacting Clean Kerala directly. “We identify a recycling facility which is authorised by the Central Pollution Control Board via bids. Currently, we have floated tenders for setting up a new facility. Depending on their nature, e-waste is recovered, recycled or disposed of. Kerala has few players in e-waste recycling. We solely have collection centres. So when tenders are called, facilities in other states come forward,” said Nagesh.
Recyclable materials are compensated for a certain amount of money. “The state government has issued a GO wherein the company dealing with e-waste is obliged to pay money per kg to the customer whereas those who hand over the hazardous waste which requires efficient disposal must pay the company,” said Nagesh.
The lack of such a recycling facility is a drawback to the state. “Restrictions in transporting the waste to outside states are likely to get stringent in the future. A minimum logistical quantity is required for transportation,” said Nagesh.
To overcome this, an e-waste and plastic dismantling facility will be set up in three acres of land at Kuttipuram in Malappuram. “As per the central rule, e-waste is handled in three stages (segregation, dismantling and recycling). The upcoming facility will have provisions until the second stage. The final process requires more expertise and specialised units,” he said. Currently, there is only one hazardous waste disposal unit in Ernakulam -- Kerala Environ Infrastructure Ltd at Ambalamugal.
With the state poised to take a lead in the electric vehicle adoption race, the amount of e-waste generated such as lithium-ion batteries is set to increase. “When EVs enter the scene, we will bring subject experts who deal with such batteries on board,” said Nagesh.
Where does it all go
E-waste such as discarded phones, faulty wires and old computers are collected from houses, government and private institutions via resource recovery centres and material collection facilities. They are primarily segregated at the respective Clean Kerala Company godowns in Kochi, Kottayam, Malappuram and Kannur. Separated materials are then transported to the collection hub at Kanjikode in Palakkad. The e-waste collected is then transferred to Earth Sense Recycle Pvt Ltd, a recycling facility in Hyderabad. “Dismantling takes place at the centre.
Plastic, metal and glass in equipment are separated. Metals include copper, iron or elements like gold. These are extracted and removed. Metals are processed separately. Glass is recycled. Hazardous elements like mercury and cadmium are also included in e-waste. Such metals are disposed of in secure landfills. Ninety-eight per cent of e-waste can be recycled. It is extremely important to initiate disposal,” said Nithin K, manager, Earth Sense Recycle Pvt Ltd. The rest are disposed of through Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDF).