IIT Madras is developing an online platform to tackle electronic wastes (e-waste) by linking stakeholders in the formal and informal economy. The product, named e-source, will be an exchange platform that will serve as an online marketplace for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and facilitate a formal supply chain between various stakeholders, who are buyers and sellers, said an IIT Madras press release. The initiative is being spearheaded by Indo-German Centre for Sustainability (IGCS). The IGCS team believes that the problem of e-waste could be resolved by connecting different buyers and sellers of Used and Waste electronic equipment and components without compromising their interests.
Highlighting the need for ‘e-Source’ initiative, Prof Sudhir Chella Rajan, faculty member, Indo-German Centre for Sustainability (IGCS), IIT Madras, said: “A novel open-source solution is needed that is data enriched, leveraging the potential of transparency in formalised e-waste handling and management. E-wastes are typically either completely stripped down for precious metals and other high-value materials or dumped in landfills, without exploring potential re-use and repurposing options. Unscientific recycling methods are harmful for waste handlers and the environment.”
According to studies, currently, the world annually generates 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste, which is expected to double in the next 16 years. e-waste is one of the pressing issues in India as well, with the country being the world’s third-largest producer. Further, between 2019 and 2020, Indians generated 38 percent more e-waste. However, what is more worrying is that only 5 percent of e-waste is recycled responsibly in the country.
“e-Source is a unique open-source platform that will evolve towards using machine learning for better traceability of e-waste in compliance with guidelines and help increase the opportunities for repair and re-use of e-waste. This will potentially improve livelihoods for youth and women in periurban settings by upgrading their skills and improving occupational health and safety, reduce the flow of toxic materials in waste streams and broaden the market for affordable, second-hand e-devices,” added Rajan.
The Team has already completed initial market research and mapping of the various stakeholders in this e-waste ecosystem through direct on-the-ground/telephonic conversations and consultations combined with secondary research. The beta version of the online platform is ready and the team is now looking at more collaborators from the ecosystem, especially informal e-waste aggregators, to kick-start the pilot run. The IGCS team has also begun talks with a few partners.
Features of IIT Madras e-Source
A unique aspect of the e-Source initiative is that the team would be deploying a detection system that uses a combination of image processing and natural language processing techniques to extract product information and upload it to the database. This initiative requires forging collaborations and influencing the stakeholders in the informal markets who are primary users/buyers of used electronic goods and sellers of electronic spares, ICT components and electronic equipment. This would ensure enough volumes are generated for repair, re-use and recycling for larger players (e.g., authorized recyclers) to operate along with aiding stand-alone repair-men to acquire electronic components (EC’s) independent of the centralized grey markets. Other unique features of e-Source include:
- Self-certification through prescribed standard protocols for various devices.
- Ensure Mandated adherence to Data erasure protocols, including degaussing and wiping, of personally identifiable information, especially IT and telecommunication equipment.
- Provide a listing of components within the device along with suggestions for compatible replacements of dysfunctional parts that are available on the platform, and so on.