A new way to recycle e-waste in educational institutions could be explored by setting up JunkLab, a dedicated innovation space within Junkyard. In junklabs, discarded tools will be processed to create new instruments, integrating the course curriculum with spin-offs, social promotion and economic opportunities.
Millions of tons of electronic waste are generated worldwide. Waste comes in the form of computers, cellphones, TVs, household appliances, lab equipment and soon.
India is one of the top five e-waste producing countries with increasing rate of e-waste generation. According to the 2020 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) which uses 32 performance indicators and ranks 180 countries in environmental health and ecosystem vitality, India ranks at a disappointing 168th position!
Most of the collection, transportation, processing and recycling of e-waste is handled by a well-networked and unregulated informal sector. Indiscriminate e-waste dumping from dismantlers and recyclers is recognized as one of the causes of environmental pollution.
Can anyone find new ways to stop environmental pollution due to e-waste generation?
A new model of e-waste could be to set up dedicated, covered and protected junkyards in educational institutions like IITs, Central Universities, State Universities, Private Universities, Colleges and Research Centers / Institutes. Institutional junkyards can get discarded equipment from the lab and office and area offering collection points within the institute. Open junkyards can be converted into Institutional Junk Labs (IJLs) by allocating a dedicated innovation space for disassembly / reassembly of equipment. New equipment can be designed and assembled for a new destination in the office, labor home.
In order to run the facility effectively, the Faculty of Engineering may be given additional responsibility of managing the IJL or someone may consider involving the students in managing the facility. IJL hands-on training manuals can be created to help students understand engineering standards and the process of creating new equipment. Live projects may be assigned to students to create brand new equipment from equipment, such as building autoclaves, ovens, incubators, microscopes, etc. from junkyards for teaching and research purposes.
To generate revenue and create jobs, IJL outlets can be built on campus to sell refurbished equipment in various labs at affordable and non-profit prices. The Open Innovation Awards and the annual IJL competition could be launched between the states to ensure wide participation.
Faculty members and students can use IJL to spin off companies of refurbishing equipment with special tax incentives. One can mine rare earth metals using IJLs and create new market opportunities. An annual audit of its environmental impact can be performed to evaluate the effectiveness of IJL over time.
Once the preliminary results are encouraging, at the next level, the government may consider creating special funding incentives and awards for universities that successfully operate the IJL model, as there is a direct link to the IJL. Transparent India Campaign. E-waste can be collected from residential premises, academic and commercial establishments and deposited at district IJL facilities. IGLs can create socially valuable technologies for distribution through government channels and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) without violating patent protection.
To perpetuate this concept, hands-on experience with e-waste recycling and IJL can become part of the university curriculum for students, especially for last semester projects. Specialized certification programs and credit-based courses can be designed around IJL. Students trained through the IJL program may be given priority funding to replicate their experience in other campuses and states. It will help to create new ideas, create job opportunities and strengthen environmental awareness.
Currently, e-waste collection and processing is mostly organized by the informal sector. The creation of joint IJL-government programs could lead significant populations to the formal sector, leading to efficient use of wasted resources and reduction of environmental pollution. As industrialization increases, innovative ways of managing massive e-waste need to be explored to reduce environmental pollution, animal mortality and human health problems.
One has to look beyond the current consumerism model, recycle waste again into the production cycle and design new applications. Estimates indicate that India generates more than 3 million tons of e-waste annually and recycles less than 5 percent using official channels. Only a small portion of e-waste is recycled and the rest is dumped or traded informally.
Can Institutional Junklabs (IJLs) be used to recycle electronic waste in an innovative and sustainable way?
Ideas always come in lots but the key is implementation.