“Absence of audit plagues e-waste management in India”
Diversified A2Z group in collaboration with UK-based e-waste management company Dataserv recently announced a joint venture A2Z Dataserv to provide e-waste recycling services in India. Its managing director, Amit Sardana, in conversation with Brajesh Kumar touches upon a number of issues including how his company offers its clients a complete solution in the field of e-waste management, its association with Dataserv, and the government’s new e-waste policy.
Tell us about A2Z Dataserv.
A2Z Group and UK-based e-waste recycling company Dataserv came together to form a joint venture called A2Z Dataserv. We operate under the brand name Weensure. A2Z Dataserv will provide full e-lifecycle services encompassing secure, sustainable and ethically customised, cradle to grave solutions, thus providing environmentally responsive recovery and disposal of IT assets.
How did you associate with Dataserv?
When we were doing our research on how to get into the e-waste field, we zeroed in on a European company called Dataserv. It has been in the e-waste management business for the past 30 years. They have 35 plants all over the world. It is basically an asset recovery company and a recycling company rolled into one. Both these businesses go side by side. It is a very responsible company. It is a member of Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP), a worldwide organisation which has many UN organizations as its members. Dataserv is very particular on proper recycling and audit of the entire process of e-waste management.
What brought A2Z into e-waste management?
Currently, only five percent of the e-waste generated is recycled in India, which is way below the global standards. We, thus, identified management of e-waste as the potential high growth area. We were already a big waste management company, so it was a natural progression for us. And also we have a pan-India presence. Again, although there are all together, 100 companies which deal with e-waste (including collectors, recyclers), no one had a proper model. This prompted us to enter this field.
What do you mean when you say e-waste recyclers do not have a proper model?
In India, we have recyclers who claim they do everything in house. What it means is you do all the processes—pick up the e-waste, break it all up, recover the precious metals and also manage hazardous materials. That’s simply not possible. Integrated plant cannot work. It took several decades for such facilities to come up in Europe. And there are only three to four of them. In most cases, there is a specialist for each process. Usually here in India what happens is this: a recycler that claims to have all the expertise to handle e-waste procures the e-waste and then distributes it in the informal market where they are handled in an unscientific and hazardous manner. Ideally a recycler should export whatever material it cannot recycle itself. But that does not happen. There is absolutely no mechanism to check/ audit the entire process of e-waste management. It’s here that we are different.
How are you different?
I would not buy e-waste that I cannot handle. Exporting some of the materials that are allowed under the Indian rules is not a problem for me. But sending it to someone where I cannot audit is a problem. Some materials like cathode ray tube and mercury lamp that I can’t export, I need to have a tie-up with landfills, incinerator.
So to answer your question as to how we are different, we take complete ownership and manage a closed auditable system for the entire process of e-waste management. For each type of material, its process of disposal is audited internally by a third party.
We have a very strong IT backbone. We have three patented applications that track the entire volume and the trail associated with e-waste management. Suppose we receive 100 tons of e-waste. My company can account for the entire 100 tons of material that has been processed, and what happens to each of the ton. So that’s the kind of complete downstream trail we can boast of. Second, we are an ISO certified company—ISO9001, ISO 14001, ISO 18001, ISO 27001. So what we can proudly claim about us is that we a have very strong backbone, a very stringent norms and that we realise the maximum value for our customers. We also lay emphasis on re-use, for which we have a very good system. We have patented system for testing and grading. We also do online valuation of our machines. We do data deletion in partnership with Blancco, which is most trusted software for data eradication.
What is your opinion on the new e-waste management rules that came into effect on May 1?
The new rules talk about collection centres. See this is not feasible. India is a big country with a number of big and small towns which qualify for e-waste collection. It is not viable for everyone to set these centres. The answer to this is compliance scheme like in Europe, where all the producers come together and authorise someone to jointly set this up and share the cost. Individually, the cost will go up.