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Urban Mining Has The Potential To Unlock India’s E-Waste Economy

E-waste thus represents a multi billion-dollar industry for the country, so long as e-waste is placed in the right channels

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India’s consumer electronics market is one of the biggest in the world. While this augurs well for the state of the economy, it also leads to a huge amount of EEE – electronic and electrical equipment that gets discarded, better known as e-waste. With external factors such as hyped up Black Friday sales and government led Make in India policies leading to further device proliferation, e-waste levels are only going to rise further. Reports say that India will touch 3 million tons of e-waste by the end of 2018, and this is only the beginning.

The evolution of components used in these products is a fascinating field of study. However, devices are getting smaller and this hyperconvergence is leading to more minerals and components being packed closer together. Everything from the display to the circuit boards are made of precious metals. A single mobile phone contains all kinds of minerals such as Palladium, Copper, Silver, Gold and more – all of which have a huge aftersales market that is overlooked if people don’t dispose of their e-waste properly. Traditionally, people have discarded their e-waste through ‘kabaadi-walas’, a highly unorganized sector that involves dangerous manual labor and ineffective safety standards.

Urban mining is the answer

This is where urban mining comes into the picture. Urban mining is being called sustainability’s latest battleground, and in emerging countries such as India, this can play a huge role in environmental sustainability. Urban mining details the reclamation of secondary resources from urban waste and obsolete materials. In China, for instance, urban mining is providing a solution to the country’s resource crisis to meet its manufacturing needs and reduce its resource shortage. There’s no reason why such a solution cannot be successfully applied in India as well.

When it comes to the salvage of resources and precious metals, urban mining has immense potential. Research shows that $21 billion worth of materials can be saved through effective urban mining. The strategic implementation of urban mining plans can turn a city into a source for raw materials such as Iron, Copper, Aluminum, Lead and more. Not only can these minerals be used for further industries and processes, they can also be removed from the ground to prevent water and air contamination that leads to long-term health ailments.

But this can only be possible if e-waste is disposed in the right manner and reaches the right parties who know how to extract these minerals. Just how urban mining is providing a solution to China’s resource crisis, it can help India overcome its mineral resource shortage and reduce dependence on foreign imports to meet its manufacturing needs. With so many electronic devices in use throughout the country, we already have a readymade substitute for reducing the nation’s import bill, lowering the environmental burden and encouraging the ‘circular economy’.

A report from IIM Bangalore talks about the implications of urban mining in the context of building sustainable cities in India. Since the objective of urban mining is essentially safeguarding the environment and promoting resource conservation, its relevance in India cannot be underestimated. India is one of the largest consumers of materials in the world, and this demand can be substantially met by following the philosophy of reuse, reduce and recycle when it comes to e-waste and the materials within it.

E-waste thus represents a multi billion-dollar industry for the country, so long as e-waste is placed in the right channels. Urban mining represents a great opportunity for everyone to come together and make a lasting impact. As the collective goal of the nation is to enhance resource recovery and promote efficient consumption, end-to-end urban mining projects hold the key to a sustainable future. Effectively done, it can help shift the country away from import-heavy policies and reduce negative impacts on the environment caused by precious metals that are causing more damage than we can imagine. Thus, it is our collective responsibility to propagate the concept of urban mining in the country.


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e-waste Urban Mining
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