Tuesday, September 28, 2021

e-Source: IIT Madras gears to tackle e-waste of the country

“Recycle, Reuse and Create”, are the fundamental principles to make a big difference on our part in order to save this planet. The industrial revolution which marked a new era in human civilization has brought enormous changes in our lives, economies, industries, and institutions. At the same time, the repercussions of the spectacular developments have led to manifold problems including the problem of disposal of massive amounts of hazardous waste and other wastes. Evidently, this hazardous waste poses a threat to human health and the environment. Therefore, the management of waste is critical for the protection of livelihood, health, and the environment in order to achieve sustainable development.

In this regard, the Indian Institute (IIT) of Madras is in the process of developing an innovative model to tackle electronic wastes (e-waste) by linking buyers and sellers in the formal and informal sectors. Named ‘e-Source’ the digital platform 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 (buyers and sellers).

The need for the model:

All over the world, the quantity of electrical and electronic waste generated each year, especially computers and televisions, has assumed alarming proportions. According to recent studies, currently, around 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste is generated annually which is expected to increase and double in the next coming 16 years. With this data, it can easily be unfolded that e-waste is one of the pressing issues in India. In addition to this, between 2019-2020, 38% more e-waste was generated in India. However, the concern lies in the fact that only 5% of e-waste is recycled responsibly in the country. The researchers working on the digital platform ‘e-Source’ are working in order to address the gaps in the e-waste sector, which can potentially open doors to a $50 billion economy, says IIT Madras in a press release.

e-Source: Resolving the concerns of the future

The initiative is being spearheaded by the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability (IGCS) and the team believes that the problem of e-waste could be resolved by connecting various stakeholders of Used and Waste electronic equipment and components.

The potential re-use of e-waste is still an unexplored area where work has to be done. Typically, e-wastes are stripped down for precious metals or dumped in landfills which is harmful to waste handlers and has an adverse impact on the environment.

e-Source will aid in better traceability of e-waste and will help in increasing 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, said a researcher of IIT-Madras. A unique feature of the digital platform is that the team will deploy 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. Once a significant amount of data sets are available with the team, they would advance towards deploying machine learning capabilities to ensure easy retrieval and proper indexing of the products to meticulously reflect the users’ perspective and the relevant aspects of the processes. Such accuracy is crucial for promoting successful online trading.

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