1. E-waste in India: Attero develops ‘cheap metal eco-friendly metal extraction tech

E-waste in India: Attero develops ‘cheap metal eco-friendly metal extraction tech

India, which has emerged as the world’s second largest mobile market, is also the fifth largest producer of e-waste, discarding roughly 18.5 lakh tonne of electronic waste each year, with telecom equipment alone accounting for 12% of the e-waste.

By: | Updated: September 1, 2016 7:12 AM
mobile-reu-L According to United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, managing e-waste properly is not only a question of protecting human health and the environment, but also presents an opportunity to use the valuable materials that can be found in many types of discarded devices. (Reuters)

India, which has emerged as the world’s second largest mobile market, is also the fifth largest producer of e-waste, discarding roughly 18.5 lakh tonne of electronic waste each year, with telecom equipment alone accounting for 12% of the e-waste. With overall global e-waste of around 41.8 million tonne, the figure could potentially rise to over 20% or roughly around 50 million tonne by 2018.

According to United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, managing e-waste properly is not only a question of protecting human health and the environment, but also presents an opportunity to use the valuable materials that can be found in many types of discarded devices. If recycling is not properly carried out, precious resources can be lost. For example, metals contained in mobile phones include gold, silver, palladium and platinum.

Attero, which is India’s leading e-waste recycler and metal extraction company, has developed a low-cost metal extraction technology for e-waste. With an integrated recycling and refurbishing facility and proprietary metallurgical processes (patent pending), company officials informed that their unique metal extraction technology for e-waste extracts pure precious and semi-precious metals as a substitute for metals from virgin mines.

E-waste includes a broad spectrum of electronic appliances, products, accessories. India discards roughly 18.5 lakh tonne of e-waste each year Telecom equipment accounts for 12 % of the e-waste India’s Attero develops a low-cost metal extraction technology for e-waste Attero’s tech ensures that e-waste is processed in an eco-friendly manner.

Developed in-house at Attero’s R&D facility, the disruptive recycling technology ensures that e-waste is processed in an environmentally friendly manner, with high efficiency and lowered carbon footprint, at a fraction of the costs involved with setting multi-billion dollar smelting facilities. This solves a lot of issues like e-waste moving to just a handful of smelters. Its technology is disruptive because going forward most of the demand for metals could be met by recycling and extracting pure metals from e- waste.

E-waste includes the broad spectrum of electronic appliances, products, components, and accessories that — due to malfunction, exhaustion (batteries, light bulbs and fluorescent tubes), or obsolescence have been discarded. This new form of waste is now one of the fastest growing waste streams around the world. E-waste is the by-product of the technological revolution.

According to a joint study by Assocham-KPMG, India has emerged as the second largest mobile market with 1.03 billion subscribers, but also the fifth largest producer of e-waste in the world, discarding roughly 18.5 lakh metric tonne of electronic waste each year, with telecom equipment alone accounting for 12% of the e-waste.

Rapid technological change, low initial costs and even planned obsolescence have resulted in a fast growing e-waste crisis around the globe. Due to lower environmental standards and working conditions in China and India, the huge mass of e-waste is being sent to the third world countries for processing — in most cases illegally.

For instance, a typical computer monitor may contain more than 6% lead by weight. The US and China contributed most to record mountains of electronic waste such as cellphones, hair dryers and fridges in 2014 and less than a sixth ended up recycled worldwide, says a UN study. Around one third of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have so far established regulatory instruments related to
e-waste. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru are regional leaders, while others are on their way towards developing and implementing legal frameworks.

Besides getting exported to third world countries, much of the e-waste ends up in landfills today. The toxic chemicals found in e-waste often go into the ground and is later released in the air in the form of gases — methane, thus impacting the environment. Mexico City’s mammoth Bordo Poniente site generates 1.4 million tonne of methane a year. But technology is helping to extract the gas and turn it into electricity.

US-based Ener-Core has built installations at landfill sites in California and the Netherlands that can produce between 250 kilowatts and 1 megawatt of electricity. Mobile phone batteries are also potentially poisonous and difficult to recycle, however new technologies are helping to alleviate the problem. For example, Umicore has built a plant in Belgium that can smelt lithium-ion batteries at very high temperatures and extract the metals from the molten slag.

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