Govt may ban import of e-waste

The government is considering banning the import of used computers and other electronic waste - coming primarily from developed nations such as US, Australia, Canada and parts of Europe - after several cases of e-waste smuggling came to light recently.

A decision is likely to be taken at the Economic Intelligence Council meeting scheduled for this month to be chaired by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The matter had come up for discussion at the coordination committee meeting of various economic intelligence agencies chaired by revenue secretary Sunil Mitra in mid-July. Mitra had then asked the director general of foreign trade to frame suitable changes in the policy to ban such imports.

The e-waste issue assumed significance after the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized some containers in Chennai containing large quantity of such waste. The imports were made despite a prohibitory order in this regard. The half-a-dozen seized containers were filled with outdated computers and electrical waste. On further investigation, it was found that containers carried hundreds of tonnes of e-waste sourced from Australia, Canada, Korea and Brunei in violation of norms.

E-waste is being dumped in the country by developing nations using loopholes in domestic rules which allow NGOs and educational institutions to import such gadgets freely on the pretext of donations.

Conscious of the fact that huge shipments of e-waste generated in developing countries are finding convenient burial ground in India, the government had through a public notice on May 13, 2010 prohibited educational and other institutions from importing second hand computers, laptops and computer peripherals, including printers, plotters, scanners, monitors, keyboards and storage units. The step was short of a complete ban on such imports.

However, with Customs continuing to seize such illegal shipments, it seems the prohibition order has had little impact. Though the finance ministry is in favour of a complete ban, the commerce ministry does not seem too inclined for such stringent measures.

At the July meeting chaired by the revenue secretary, DGFT had mooted the idea of raising vigilance at ports and asking the Customs department to confiscate such imports if detected, instead of a complete ban.

Till the DGFT came up with the May 13 amendment prohibiting e-waste import, second hand computers and laptops were brought into the country using this clause that allowed such imports through donations made to educational institutions, registered charitable hospitals, public library, research and development organisations and community information centers.

Disposal of e-waste often leads to emission of dangerous gases like in the process of recovery of copper from e-waste dioxins are released in the environment. Toxic cyanide is released in the process of extraction of yellow metal from electrical waste and computer components.

Environmental agencies worldwide estimate dumping of e-waste in India is likely to go up by 500% in the next 10 years. Already, environment bodies estimate India generates nearly 4 lakh tonnes of e-waste annually which is likely to double in the next few years. The country, however, lacks effective disposal mechanism.

India: A matter of waste

More than 500,000 tonnes of e-waste is generated in India each year while some developed countries also ship their waste there. Recycling electronic waste is big business in India, but at what cost to the environment and public health?

Go Green — With Every Opportunity

Energy conservation measures that enable TCS to help itself, others.

TCS, has analysed and measured its employees' per capita carbon footprint, and worked towards reducing it by 20 per cent from its 2006 levels.

M. Ramesh
R. Ravikumar

If you look at it from an ecology perspective, the role of information technology divides in a ratio of 98:2. The ‘2' refers to the contribution of IT to the emission of greenhouse gases and what the industry should do about it. The other 98 per cent is an area where IT can play a role in helping other industries bring down emissions, and generally live a green life.
The first 2 per cent is responsibility, the other 98 per cent is business. As the world goes green, there is a huge role and business opportunity for IT to help in the process.
The green thrust across the world is opening up new areas of operations to the IT industry. Europe, for instance, has avowed to produce 20 per cent of the electricity it needs from renewable sources, by the year 20:20. This ‘20:20:20' movement calls for an addition of 30,000 MW of wind power capacity, most of which will come offshore.
To take the example of ‘wind' further, the offshore technology is still emerging and a lot of money is being sunk into perfecting the machines and the foundation they stand on and in fact there are efforts put into making them towable. Imagine the amount of work that would need to be done at the back offices, where the R&D is developed and perfected.
And if you get into other renewable energy (RE) sources — solar, wave, geothermal and so on — the quantum of work that is due to be done is enormous — and so is the opportunity to the (Indian) IT industry.
Tata Consultancy Services, for one, has spotted this opportunity. It has created a vertical to address this area — the ‘Eco Sustainability Service'. The unit is busy selling its services.
Samir Menon, Head – Client Relationships, Eco Sustainability Service, TCS, lists out four areas where the IT industry will be able to straightaway chip in — design and development where IT can provide modelling and simulation services, enhancing efficiency of existing systems, maintenance (a big cost and an opportunity especially in offshore wind farms) and understand customer requirements, which is a bit of an MIS.
This, of course, is for starters. There is plenty more to do as we go along. For instance, decommissioning, an issue an(y) industry would need to address upfront, but is mostly not being done now. As technology improves and you want to replace your legacy system with a better one, you wouldn't want to be grappling with an unforeseen eWaste issue, notes Menon. The IT industry (itself a eWaste generator) can hardly afford not to go green itself, regardless of the fact that its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is only 2 per cent. The technology of virtualisation has helped enormously, as you could telescope a host of servers into one and thereby save space, material and, importantly, air-conditioning.
IT starts at home
There are many other areas too where the IT industry can shrink its carbon footprint.
TCS again has done a few things in this direction. Lakshminarasimham Srinivasan, Head – Strategic Business Unit, Eco Sustainability Services, TCS, has analysed and measured its employees' per capita carbon footprint, and worked towards reducing it by 20 per cent from its 2006 levels. “Our target is to reduce it by 25 per cent by 2012,” he says. The company's server Consolidation & Virtualisation in data centres resulted in 79 per cent savings in power consumed by servers in 2008-09. Usage of power-efficient monitors resulted in a drop of 57 per cent in monitor power during the year. On per capita basis, it works out to 15.6 per cent reduction.
There is a lot an IT company can do to reduce its carbon footprint, says Srinivasan. TCS, for instance, replaced all its CRT monitors with TFT monitors. It introduced ‘desktop hibernation' to reduce wastage of energy during non-office hours.
Time and temperature control on air-conditioners and provision of intelligent light sensors, minimising use of halogen and other energy-intensive lighting, use of non-conventional energy resources such as solar water system and bio-digester also helped in a big way.
Importantly, “we cut down on travel by deploying over 200 video conferencing units,” says Srinivasan.
In 2008-09, TCS saw a 42 per cent drop in paper consumption, which it achieved by measures such as providing duplex printing by default to all printers and replacing paper and plastic cups with ceramic mugs. It is not inconceivable that like TCS, the other IT biggies have their own programmes, regardless of whether or not they have created a business unit to capture green business. However, there is not much evidence of the medium and small IT companies being sensitised to this business opportunity. For them, it is time to get cracking.

Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste

Where does all the electronic refuse our society generates end up? Some of it is shipped illegally from the U.S. to China, reports Scott Pelley, where it is harming the environment and people.

Source: CBS News

Bio Waste Management Short Film

Fruit and vegetable waste can be used as Fermented Edible products, Animal Feed, Ethanol, Production of Bio-gas and producing Electricity by Bio - Methanization Plant, Compost making, etc...