Making sense out of e-waste

Praggya Guptaa and Taru Bhatia | August 28, 2015




We live in a time where technology becomes outdated with the blink of an eye. With purchasing power turning stronger, and technology becoming economical, lifecycle of the product is shortened. Hence handling disposed electronic items, commonly called e-waste, is getting tougher and challenging. E-waste management is going to become a major problem in the country and yet the issue lacks seriousness in handling the issue. But the advantage India has over other countries is that it has a big consumer base for reusing the products.

The general practice in the country has been using products until the end of the lifecycle but the bad part is the final treatment of the product as they are handed over to the informal channel which harms the environment. Refurbishing old goods is now taking up the pace in India as there is a good market for these products. Refurbishing products are not second hand products but old products are taken back by the recyclers/refurbishers and then with the help of its working parts new products are developed. This is a practice which leads to better e-waste management for the reason that it maintains zero dumping and landfills.

There are many recycling companies actively working for e-waste management through refurbishing old products and selling them back to the market directly or through their network. According to Latif Nathani, vice president and managing director eBay refurbished goods market is pegged at about $15 billion. Refurbishing of the e-waste not only address the e-waste concern but also make products available at relatively lower price and makes affordable to more and more people. It can be a major contributor to digital India vision by making devices affordable and in the reach of the consumers. There are many recyclers refurbishing and selling items.

There are some active recyclers, refurbishers and people who are providing platform for the right channelisation of e-waste while giving waste a new shape:

Refurbishing as a Service (RaaS)
Reboot is a Hyderabad based company founded in 2012 by Rahul Chowdhury and Anand Tater. The company specialises in refurbishing thereafter only 25 percent of the waste goes to recycling out of total generated. “The first preference is always refurbishing. We follow 3Rs that are Reuse, Refurbish and Recycle to ensure zero land dumping. We are focusing on revitalising existing products using minimum resources and making them as good as possible,” said Anand Tater.

Reboot has customised testing facility in collaboration with the UK to ensure products’ functionality with new machinery. The company also ensures that 100 percent data sanitisation with the help of DOD which is military grade software for data wiping. “Giving phone or laptop to an unauthorised channel put data on risk and there is a scope of data pilferage as data privacy laws is not strong in India as in Europe or other countries. We erase the complete software and then original software is installed in the device. This way consumer gets a new condition phone at a price benefit,” shared Tater. To build consumers’ confidence on refurbished products reboot offers one year replacement warranty on phones and six months warrant on laptops. Additionally there is a provision of additional protection on chargeable basis. They take the product back again when consumer intends to discard the products.

As a social responsibility Reboot offers Refurbishing as a Service (RaaS) scheme where corporates under their CSR programme can donate their IT assets. IT products provided by these corporates are made up of educational standard and then get them certified from the corporates and give them to rural schools. “We are working with corporates such as HPCL, Microland, etc. and also providing refurbishing as a service to small companies to large corporates and PSUs. For example if we have received 400 systems out of which 360 qualify as an educational asset. Product of Rs 25,000 gets refurbished for Rs 12000 and provided to rural schools at Rs 3500,” he explained.

To ensure the product is reaching out to right hands, Reboot enables the tracking of components and products with the help of individual barcode and id provided to them.

Reboot has infinity stores in Gurgaon, Jaipur and Surat and have branches in 10 states and coming up with more branches. “By 2017 we have a target of reaching out to every state of the country. On August 25, we are opening infinity stores in Lucknow. And we will have 22 experience centers in Uttar Pradesh to make people aware about refurbished products. These stores will act as disposition centers, experience zone, and selling points.”

The company also has tie-up with online retailers such as Junglee, Amazon and also will be having ebay for selling refurbished products.

Reboot is also working in Uttar Pradesh on Swachh Bahrat mission where they have a tie-up with CII, corporates and local RWAs also to create awareness among people.

Training kabadiwalas
Ecoreco started in 2005 as refurbisher and recycler. The company has a facility in Vasai and opening another Bhiwandi by 2016. EcoReco is spending 1.5 crore per annum on creating awareness among consumers.  “We have a target to place 10,00,00 collection bins across India in one year out of which 5000 will be in Mumbai. This will start from 2nd October 2015 to 2nd October 2016,” shared BK Soni, Chairman, Ecoreco.  For placing these bins Ecoreco is targeting institutions and prayer places like church, temples and gurudwaras. “We are approaching large corporates to support this initiative as a part of their CSR activity.  Corporate can choose the location of their choice and fund the initiative,” said he.

Ecoreco also has a plan to open training institute for informal sector people kabadiwals where we have a target of training 300000 kabadiwala in next 10 years. This project too will start from 2nd October 2015. “We have a target of having 125 training center across the country for the skills development of Kabadiwala as we believe that rather than training 1.25 billion people if we train kabaddiwala that will make a difference in right channelization of e-waste,” He added.

EcoReco receive 7200 metric tones per annum from government, corporate and end consumers where the contributions from end consumers are very low. The company is using dry process technology for refurbishing.

Anywhere anytime pick up
Bin Bag is a start-up in NS Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, IIM Bangaluru 10 months back.  The startup addresses the challenge of last mile connectivity. Bin Bag provides a web platform where people that want to dispose of their waste can log in and get picked up and pick stuff like old PCs, old cell phones.

“The bigger problem is last mile connection to authorised recyclers and our value proposition is we focus on that connection. We pick up the e-waste from end consumers and ensure it is going to the authorized recyclers,” Achitra Borgohain, founder and chief executive, Bin Bag

Bin Bag utilizes the existing large network of Kabaddiwala for the collection. “These days people have moved to large buildings and apartments where kabadiwalas are not accessible. So people can put up the request on Bin Bag portal and we arrange the pickup of even a dvd or usb. The idea is to make a whole process of collection decentralized.  Recyclers can go to these collection centres for pick up the waste. Bin Bag is not into refurbishing or buying or selling products but is a platform for facilitation for the right channelisation of e-waste.  “We enable anytime any day services for consumers,” said Borgohain.   Bin Bag deals with product that are on the end of their life. For monetizing consumers Bin Bag has tied up with 5-6 brands including Jabong and some regional brands to offer deals and discount, also looking for more similar tie ups to give value to customers.  “Till now we have waste around 4 tons from 200 consumers more than 4 tons of e-waste. From recyclers perspective it may not be lucrative but it will help in right channelization of waste. Now we are getting request from small business also for the same. We will soon come with an app too and looking for expansion in 3-4 more cities. To expand our base we are looking for some VCs to invest in our venture,” he added

Instant Monetary evaluation
Founded in 2013 by young duo Aamir Jariwala and Akshat Ghiya, Karma recycling is deals into refurbishing of goods and sell them through their dealer network.

“Market for refurbished good is very strong in tier-2 to 5 cities. Still there is no law to make consumers responsible for e-waste management,” Akshat Ghiya co-founder, Karma Recycling.

Karma arrange free pick up for consumers through their portal and provide instant monetary evaluation of the product for that customer need to answer 6-7 questions. Karma accepts more than 3000 models of used working and non-working smart phones, tablets or laptops of almost all brands directly from their home and payment are done by NEFT, cheque, or gift card.

Karma also powers in store-exchange programs for electronic manufacturers and retail chains across the country. Mobile device owners can now carry their old devices into the stores they buy new electronics from and they get an immediate in-store value against the purchase of new electronic devices. These refreshed devices are re-sold through another web portal - Karmashop.in with a 15-day money back guarantee. All non-repairable devices and spare parts are scientifically recycled back into metals and plastics.

“We do a full data wipe and software reboot of the device, repairs whatever needs repair, and, post a 50+step check of the device, re-packages devices for sale at a fraction of their original cost.”

Just Dial for e-waste management
EcoCentric management private limited (EMPL) is a recycling firm of electronic waste. Set up in 2011, EMPL has pan India presence in context of collection of e-waste from various sources.

Founded by Karan Thakkar, the recycling firm incorporates ISO certified 2500 mtpa facility which segregates, dismantles, and extracts hazardous metals from electronic devices. With the help of its reverse logistic network, the company is able to collect 90 percent of e-waste from corporate houses.

Technology used in its recycling facility includes CRT recycling, Tubelight/CFL recycling, Cables recycling, Data destruction Services and PCB recycling. The company claims to have treated 500 metric ton of e-waste till date.

E-waste, which is collocated out of IT wastes; consumer electronic equipment and telecom devices, after being shipped to their recycling facility are passed through different layers, such as decontamination, dismantling, hammering, segregation and then specialised segregation process. Plastic materials are sent to industrial hub for reuse, metals and PCBs are sent to the smelters, glass is sent to recycle to manufacture TV sets. The hazardous materials are stored separately and treated at CHW TSDF.  The cable wires are dismantled to separate plastic from the metal, and then sent to their respective destinations.

The progress in e-waste treatment has motivated EMPL to expand its facility to Maharashtra, at Pali. Moreover, opening collection centers in central India and Goa is part of their strategy to stretch out its connectivity.

In order to promote appropriate disposal of electronic waste, the company has tied up with Just Dial, so if anyone enquires of e-waste disposal, EMPL gets visible to them as a service-provider. Besides, the company is involved in awareness campaigns, collection drives, trees plantation, etc. to reach out to more audience.

A platform to sell electronic Avshesh
Avshesh is an online platform that helps a user to sell its electronic scrap directly to a relevant buyer. Conceptualised by Ankit Agrawal and Abhinav Prateek, under Metamorf Waste Pvt Ltd, in May 2014, the website primarily began with trading e-waste, before extending it to all kinds of second-hand material. Today, the website has 20 registered buyers of e-waste scrap, which are mostly the recycling firms, according the founders. Trading at Avshesh happens in wholesale.

“E-Waste is a growing concern in India, because of which e-waste legislation was enacted in 2012, in India. Speaking to the organizations, we realised that they did not understand the legislation very well, and were looking for people, who could help them dispose e-waste in environmental friendly way,” Ankit Agrawal said.

The online firm also accommodates its sellers to finalise deals with a tap on a screen. Its mobile app is available for android smart phone users.

Avshesh trade a total of 10 tons of e-waste each month. They have their offices in Delhi-NCRs and Kolkata, and serves audience from northern and eastern parts of India. The company looks forward to expand its footprints in Mumbai too.

Refreshing e-Waste
Delhi-based Greenscape Eco Management began its function in e-waste management from 2007. The basic motivation was to increase the lifecycle of an electronic product, so it could be re-used until the last count of its breath.

The company has its plant in Alwar, Rajasthan, where it sends all the e-waste scrap, collected from private and corporate users, from all over India. Products such as mobile phones, television set, refrigerator, laptop or computer etc, are assessed by a team of GEM experts, to see if a product has enough life left to survive in a second-hand market. The process is called ‘refreshing’ the product. “We do not want to harm the environment, so what we try is to refresh the product. And resale it,” the company states. Once the product becomes fit for use again, it serves to a buyer with limited budget, and hence, make advantage out of it.

However, if an e-product is far beyond repair, it is sent for its second process that is ‘recycling’.  The company has its collection points in all major cities of India, and it prompts users to drop their e-waste at those centers. If a customer has a bulk load of e-waste to trash, then using its own logistics, the company collects directly from the source. Somewhere around 2000 to 3000 metric tons of e-waste is refreshed and recycled at GEM.

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