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  Dr. Almitra Patel -  e-waste policy
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eWaste Policy Initiatives


Mrs Almitra H Patel  MS MIT, USA, 50, Kothnur, Bagalur Rd  Bangalore 560077

Tel 080-8465365     Tel-Fax 080-8465195     almitrapatel@rediffmail.com

Member, Supreme Court Committee for Solid Waste Mgt for Class 1 Cities


Presented at Agastya- EHF Seminar at Bangalore, 11.1.2003


Abstract:  There is a felt need for an immediate eWaste Policy, preferably created and implemented by the industry itself, with user involvement, as PET bottle manufacturers are beginning to do.  The current unsatisfactory eWaste recycling methods, and our official attitude to this, are compared with the situation in USA and EU.  Preferred options of Re-use, Re-manufacture, Recycling are described, with references to relevant initiatives and useful websites. Eco-friendly product design, Import Policy, Extended Producer Responsibillity and product Take-Back practice and legislation are described, along with its relevance for India.




1.0  “Policy intervention is often needed where the market fails to address environmental problems”.  So far, the Indian market has not addressed the enviro problems it is causing, hence the need for an official eWaste Policy.


1.1  An eWaste Policy is best created by those who understand the issues.  Only if the industry fails to self-regulate itself does the need arise for a policy framed and imposed by the Centre or State.  Since this task is the responsibility of bureaucrats without subject expertise, and often delegated to those below them with little knowledge of the subject, the results are often less than perfect, though better than no action at all.


1.2  So it is best for industry to initiate policy formation collectively, but with user involvement. A precedent exists in AIPM, the Association of Indian PET Manufacturers.  Under pressure by the Ranganath Mishra Committee for plastic waste management, and a State Pollution Control Board threat to collect 9 paise per PET bottle sold, for an eco-fund to be managed (less than perfectly) by the SPCB, the producers of Coke, Pepsi and Bisleri have banded together in their common interest to evolve a take-back and recycling policy in at least the 20 largest cities of India.


2.0  In India, nothing is wasted.  No business opportunity is ignored.  E-waste is a thriving business in New Delhi, esp at Mandoli, Sadar Bazar, Kanti Nagar, Old Sealampur & Turkmana Gate.  E-Waste dealers like PCRM Metal Ltd make bids on sea going containers at the Inland depot at Okhla. Bangalore too has an eWaste recycler with huge turnover, who seeks anonymity and secrecy.  The largest market for non working equipment is for their circuit boards that are rich in precious metals like silver, gold, palladium & platinum.

2.1  EWaste recycling is very dangerous to health and the environment.

Though a few items are re-used, e.g. IC chips sold after pin straightening, the rest go directly to outdoor fires to reduce them to metals. Circuit boards are burned in open pits to retrieve the rest of the solder & copper, then the ashes are floated in water to remove the lighter ash.  Sulphuric acid is used to remove copper from circuit boards.  Nitric acid or cyanide salts are used to remove gold & palladium.


2.2  India suffers from an All or Nothing approach to pollution issues. Though open burning and acid baths are very dangerous to health, this visible short-term pollution does avoid invisible long-term pollution from waste dumps and landfills.  While our CPCB and SPCBs turn a blind eye to existing recycling, they do not have a pro-active approach to sharing information on, say, less-polluting ways of resource recovery, and expect immediate and perfect solutions from any recyclers that would like to operate officially.  Only the National Productivity Council is pro-active, e.g. in the electro-plating industry.  We need more appreciation, support and encouragement to those who move incrementally towards pollution reduction and resource recycling in better and non-clandestine ways.


2.3  HP and IBM have take-back policies worldwide, but no recycling facility in India yet.  HP’s nearest recycling facility is / was in Singapore. We can learn from them. A local plastic waste trader is interested in teaming up with them here and undertaking recycling with HP guidance, surely with less-polluting knowhow.  We need to create a supportive environment to set up such improved common facilities, by major Indian hardware producers and/or recyclers.


2.4  What elements are re-used or recycled, and from what  sources?  Private users discard radios, TVs, VCR/VCPs, phones, computers, and 2-8% electronic scrap in washing machines.  The composition of a typical 32 kg desktop PC is annexed.   Industrial eWaste arises from telephone exchanges, industrial control panels etc. The most dangerous scrap, so far unrecycled here, is from active devices like phosphor-coated glass items filled with toxic gases, which are just broken and discarded in common dumps.


3.0  REDUCE, RE-USE, RECYCLE.  Disposal by recycling is intricate, because of  the composite nature of components (see analysis of computer materials in Anx 1, and samples displayed) :



Type of Item

Elements recycled

Materials discarded


Printed Circuit Board (PCB)

Copper, some plastic bases

Phenolics, epoxy, glass



Copper, MS fittings, springs

Lead, PVC/ABS body



Copper, Aluminium

PVC, Mylar, petroleum jelly



Copper core lamination

PVC bobbin, Insulator




Discarded whole




Discarded whole




Discarded whole


Gas tubes, gas displays


Gas, glass, phosphor coatings


3.1  Immediate RE-USE IS BEST : (computers are donated or reassigned to other people who can use them.  See websites below.)  This is possible even with partially-functioning equipment.  E.g. Provide obsolete or non-functional cell-phones for SMS-messaging by the deaf and dumb. Use computer keyboards and monitors for typing-training with minimal linkages.


3.2  RE-MANUFACTURING  is next best : Computers are disassembled and new systems are made from the parts (e.g. putting old memory and hard drives into CPUs).  Indians are truly expert in this.  Abroad, websites and computer links are available to suppliers of refurbished items. 


3.3  WASTE  MINIMISATION  is another SHORT-TERM solution:

Replace Styrofoam PACKAGING by cardboard, bubble-pack, biodegradables.

Manufacturers should CHOOSE eco-friendly options. (e.g. PVC alternatives already exist, but are somewhat costlier), and favour suppliers with lower environmental releases in their production.

Suppliers should INFORM producers of the enviro-impact of their components and the options available. 



These need reverse logistics processes for owners of products to return unwanted equipment.  Although run by specific manufacturers, they accept , either free or on payment, any brand of equipment. (i.e. one can send an IBM PC to HP and vice versa).  Web info is available on

HP’s program (computers, printers, monitors, etc. in many European countries, US, and Asia - fee varies)

IBM’s program ($ 30 per box in the US)

United Recycling program ($ 28 per box in the US)

Best Buy (periodic announcements in local media of dates and stores holding collection events)

Apple and Compaq have information sites.



3.5  REPLICATE USEFUL END-OF-LIFE INITIATIVES as in the websites below:

Inkjet and Toner Cartridge Recycling

·         Kartridges for Kidz - School Fundraising

·         Laser Re-Nu

·         LaserSense - Worldwide buyer and seller of cartridges

·         MT Cartridge Recycling (UK)

·         Office Products Recycling Associates

·         Tri-R Recycling (Colorado)

·         See also Recycler's World Cartridge Listings


Software / Old Diskette Recycling

*GreenDisk - accepts diskettes, CDs, CD-ROMs, tapes (at user’s expense)   * EcoMedia - accepts many formats of magnetic tape (pay shipping?)          * Floppies for Kiddies (floppies only, they also donate to charities)

Reuse / Donation programs - Coordinators and Resources for Donations to Schools and Charities

·         Another Byte

·         Computer Recycling for Education

·         Goodwill Industries - many local US sites, check locally

·         The Electronic Community - Donates to NGOs

·         Share the Technology

·         National Safety Council's Donation Suggestions

·         Time Dollar Institute (Chicago)

·         Computers for Learning - transfers US Govt-owned machines to schools/nonprofits

3.6  RECYCLING  involves taking a product back to the raw materials level (e.g. breaking a computer down into plastic and metals).  It often involves an intermediate stage of ASSET RECOVERY, involving a contract between a recycler and an organization to take away excess equipment and to guarantee safe disposal, perhaps with some economic value returned to the organization. This could imply both guaranteeing that no sensitive data was left on machines, as well as proving that no machines were sent to landfills.  Component Recycling (e.g. Semiconductors) is done by Eastern Smelting & Refining, ECS Refining, and Fox Electronics, among others, who can be contacted for details and assistance.

3.7  Useful websites are available on the following topics:

Computer Recycling (US-based)

·         EPA Region 1 (Northeast US) list of Demanufacturers/Recyclers/Previous Metal Refiners

·         Directory of International Computer Recycling Programs

·         A & B Recycling

·         Accu-shred limited

·         Back Thru the Future Microcomputers

·         Blue Star Electronics

·         Chase Recycling

·         Monmouth Wire and Computer Recycling

·         DMC Electronics Recycling

·         Environmental Recycling, Inc.

·         Hobi International

·         Materials Processing Corporation

·         Metals Reclamation Services

·         Product Stewardship Corporation

·         R. Frazier, Inc.

·         Talon Microelectronics

·         EnviroCycle - includes closed loop CRT recycling

·         Goldstar Computer Recycling

·         Server Surplus (WA state)

·         Westech Recyclers, Inc.

Computer Recycling (non-US)

·         UK Computer Recycling

·         Recycling IT (UK)

·         Eldan Recycling (Scandinavia)

US Regional, State, and Local Programs

·         Massachussetts' Resource Page for Recycling CRTs (monitors)

·         Mid-Atlantic Report on Electronics Recycling Options

·         EPA Analysis of Residential Pilot Collection Programs

·         EPA Region 10 Reuse and Recycling Options (Northwest US)

·         Materials for the Future (San Francisco/Oakland)

·         Computer Waste Recycling Guide for Ohio (and other states)

·         EPA NetShare - open chat about computer recycling


4.0   RE-DESIGN  PRODUCTS AND PROCESSES to reduce eco-impacts.

Rethink material selection and create new production techniques that minimize emissions and the use of  water, chemicals, energy.

Replace non-recyclables and toxics with eco-friendly alternatives.

The ultimate answer is to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes and not to recycle them. The technology already exists for many such replacements, as the following industry leaders already have lead-free equipment available :


Fujitsu:  FS8500 server group, Handy terminals Team Pad 7500 Series 3, Gs8500FX server group, Liquid Crystal Displays BL series, VSP3700 line printer,
page printers PS2160 series


NEC used lead-free solder in 1999 in PC motherboards and since 2000 in other computer parts.


Oki currently has some lead-free products.


Panasonic  By end 1999 had 4 products and 13 variations all with lead-free solder


Sony has introduced lead-free solder in part or all printed wiring board soldering processes with the exception of some product categories. As of 2000, lead-free solder is used in Sony’s Notebooks.


Toshiba’s  DynaBook SS3490 personal computer is lead-free since 2001 (but not available in the US then).



US Office of Technology Assessment OTA’s "Green Products by Design: Choices for a Cleaner Environment", 1992.

INDUSTRY ROAD-MAPS quantify current state of the art and help to plan future use of technology to reduce environmental effects.  Examples: 

1994 Electronics Industry Environmental Roadmap

1996 Electronics Industry Environmental Roadmap

International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors

High Density Packaging Roadmap

Other Websites:

Heavy Metals in Products :EIA Report on Mercury & Lead in Electronics & Monitors

Hazardous and Toxic Waste Releases :  EPA's Common Sense Intiative Plan for the Computer and Electronics Industry

Energy Consumption and Environmental Impacts - EPA  ENERGY  STAR,  etc.




 A lot of E-waste is being imported from various First World countries on the pretext of recycling.  The problem is extremely grave.  Govt should strictly regulate the import of solid waste that can be used as raw materials, as in China.

China in 1996 passed a law on prevention and control of solid waste pollution to the Environment which among other things :

a)     Prohibits the import of solid waste which is unusable as raw material

b)     Strictly regulates the imports of solid waste that can be used as raw materials.

They should be approved by the state environmental protection administration for import and should not include:

1)     Computers, Monitors, CRT

2)     Microwave oven

3)     Video camera

4)     Electric cooking devices

5)     Rice cooker

6)     Telephones

7)     Video games

8)     TV & picture tubes

9)     Refrigerators

 India must adopt a similar policy and appoint a watchdog group to block any import of hazardous waste from developed countries.  Enforcement is crucial: there should be deterrent fines or bans on local companies who recycle the imported waste without proper guidelines.




This is an absolutely essential policy whereby the producers of products must be made financially, physically and legally responsible for their products. The principle of “Extended product responsibility” requires continuing accountability on producers over the entire life cycle of their products. The aim of EPR is to encourage producers to prevent pollution and reduce resource and energy use at each stage of the product life cycle through changes in product design and technology. Producers will thus have a financial incentive to design their products with less hazardous and more recyclable material.



Electronic devices must be designed to ensure clear, safe, and efficient mechanisms for recovering their raw materials when it finally becomes necessary to decommission them.

Input materials must be suitable for safe reconstitution and recycling and there must be a pre-identifiable recycling market and mechanism established for the input material. Equipment components must be properly labeled to identify plastic and metal types.

Warnings must be placed for any possible hazard in dismantling or recycling and the product must be pre-designed for rapid and easy dismantling or reduction (e.g. shredding) to a usable form.



Producers should give incentives to their customers for product return through a “buy back approach” whereby old electronic goods are collected and a discount could be given on new products purchased by the consumer.  The old electronic product should then be sent back to be carefully dismantled for its parts to be either recycled or re-used, either in a separate recycling division at the manufacturing unit or in a common facility.


The government, or industry, or both together, should appoint an autonomous agency to keep track of the various companies and dealers in this program, who should keep a written record of all the various old products being collected from their  centres and furnish periodic reports.


Such a system  is already in operation in many EU countries for packaging wastes, ever since the EU passed its Directive 94/62/EC of 20.12.1994 and EU’s later Ordinance on the Avoidance and Recovery of Packaging Waste on 21.8.1998. In Germany, for example (which has a Packaging Ordinance since 1991 for glass and paper), the Duales System AG (a public limited company) organizes the nationwide collection, sorting and recycling of post-consumer packaging for its member-firms.  Duales’ waste-management operations are funded by all the users of specific packaging materials, pro-rata according to their purchase of these materials – glass, paper and cardboard, plastics, tinplate, aluminium and beverage cartons / composites. 


Participating firms use the Green Dot (Gruener Punkt) on their products and packaging (16,200 trade mark users in 1995).  The Duales System documents all quantities of waste collected, sorted and recycled, with annual reporting of Mass Flow Verification to the Environment Ministry. Thus Germany’s Electronic Scrap was estimated at 1.3 million tons in 1994 (source: ZVEI = Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Electroindustrie e.V.) and 1.8 million tons in 1997 (source: bvse = Bundesverband Sekundarrohstoffe und Entsorgung e.V).  Progress has been remarkable.  In 1994, 4.6 million tons of sales packaging was forwarded for recycling.  By 1997, this had risen to 5.4 million tons.  At the same time, the economic incentive to minimize packaging (and hence collection costs) actually reduced the total packaging consumption in Germany from 11.9 million tons in 1994 to 11.5 million tons in 1997. 


Duales in 1997 formed a 100% subsidiary SYSTEC (see www.gruener-punkt.de or contact@systec.K.unnet.de) to do the international marketing of its recycling technologies for mixed plastic wastes.  It can probably advise on eWaste as well.  Both local producers as well as firms marketing imported electronics should be covered by this scheme.





All 15 EU countries have already adopted The Basel Ban on export of hazardous waste to developing countries. The EU approved a WEEE directive (on Waste from Electrical, Electronic and Entertainment equipment) that requires all producers of electronic equipment  to take responsibility, financial and otherwise, for their product at the end of its consumer life, and for the Recovery - Recycling of E-Waste. 


A second, preventive, directive (ROHS = Restriction Of use of certain Hazardous Substances) has been readied that will require manufacturers to phase out the use of hazardous materials in the production of Electrical & Electronics products by 2008. 


India would be well advised to enact similar directives at the earliest, before waste quantities become unmanageable.




6.0     WHAT “WE” CAN DO:


The whole problem of hazards reaching the earth and polluting our environment and our water can be resolved if “we” as conscious citizens adopt a proactive approach in reducing the burden on the environment and take a few simple but bold steps that can make a difference:


1,  Buy only necessary products. Purchase products that utilize some of the emerging technologies (i.e. lead-free, halogen-free, recycled plastics and from manufacturers or retailers that will `take-back' their product, or have developed an easily upgradeable product)


2,  Write to your computer manufacturer to take steps to phase out hazardous materials.


3,  Collect and be prepared to pay the price for collection and ecofriendly disposal of electronic consumables like cartridges, floppies and CDs.


4,  Ask for an Electronics take-back form from the manufacturer at the time of purchase. If they do not have one, try to make it mandatory for them to have one: press the government to insist on such a policy.


5,  Contact your local or state government representatives. Explain to them why you are concerned. Ask them to get involved in developing solutions. They could ban the land filling and incineration of electronic junk and support a re-use and recycling infrastructure that will not accept export as a solution, nor allow import of other countries’ eWaste.










Anx 1:  Composition of a typical Personal Desktop Computer weighing ~70lbs  (downloaded from web, forwarded by email, source unknown)

Plastics 22.9907 20% 13.8 Includes organics, oxides other than silica

Lead 6.2988 5% 3.8 Metal joining, radiation shield/CRT,PWB

Aluminum 14.1723 80% 8.5 Structural, conductivity/housing, CRT, PWB, connectors

Germanium 0.0016 0% <0.1 Semiconductor/PWB

Gallium 0.0013 0% <0.1 Semiconductor/PWB

Iron 20.4712 80% 12.3 Structural, magnetivity/(steel) housing, CRT, PWB

Tin 1.0078 70% 0.6 Metal joining/PWB, CRT

Copper 6.9287 90% 4.2 Conductivity/CRT, PWB, connectors

Barium 0.0315 0% <0.1 Vacuum tube/CRT

Nickel 0.8503 80% 0.51 Structural, magnetivity/(steel) housing, CRT, PWB

Zinc 2.2046 60% 1.32 Battery, phosphor emitter/PWB, CRT

Tantalum 0.0157 0% <0.1 Capacitors/PWB, power supply

Indium 0.0016 60% <0.1 Transistor, rectifiers/PWB

Vanadium 0.0002 0% <0.1 Red phosphor emitter/CRT

Terbium < 0 0% <0 Green phosphor activator, dopant/CRT, PWB

Beryllium 0.0157 0% <0.1 Thermal conductivity/PWB, connectors

Gold 0.0016 99% <0.1 Connectivity, conductivity/PWB, connectors

Europium 0.0002 0% <0.1 Phosphor activator/PWB

Titanium 0.0157 0% <0.1 Pigment, alloying agent/(aluminum) housing

Ruthenium 0.0016 80% <0.1 Resistive circuit/PWB

Cobalt 0.0157 85% <0.1 Structural, magnetivity/(steel) housing, CRT, PWB

Palladium 0.0003 95% <0.1 Connectivity, conductivity/PWB, connectors

Manganese 0.0315 0% <0.1 Structural, magnetivity/(steel) housing, CRT, PWB

Silver 0.0189 98% <0.1 Conductivity/PWB, connectors

Antinomy 0.0094 0% <0.1 Diodes/housing, PWB, CRT

Bismuth 0.0063 0% <0.1 Wetting agent in thick film/PWB

Chromium 0.0063 0% <0.1 Decorative, hardener/(steel) housing

Cadmium 0.0094 0% <0.1 Battery, blue-green phosphor emitter/housing, PWB, CRT

Selenium 0.0016 70% .00096 Rectifiers/PWB

Niobium 0.0002 0% <0.1 Welding alloy/housing

Yttrium 0.0002 0% <0.1 Red phosphor emitter/CRT

Rhodium < 0 50% <0. Thick film conductor/PWB

Platinum < 0 95% <0.1 Thick film conductor/PWB

Mercury 0.0022 0% <0.1 Batteries, switches/housing, PWB

Arsenic 0.0013 0% <0.1 Doping agents in transistors/PWB

Silica 24.8803 0% 15 Glass, solid state devices/CRT, PWB
















Grateful thanks for information inputs to Viren Mathur  Vir_mat@yahoo.com

and to Rajshekhar Hiremath   flexitron@usa.net .