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EoIs for BARC-developed e-waste technologies

AGNIi
Source: (UNEP, DTIE, 2007) 

Introduction

E-waste is the collective waste extracted from used electronic devices and household appliances which are deemed unfit for their original future use and are separated with the intention to recover, recycle, dispose and reuse. Such wastes comprise of a plethora of devices ranging from electrical to electronical for example laptops, computer, domestic appliances etc. E-waste contains over 1000 different substances most of which are harmful and potentially hazardous to not just the environment but also the human health and well-being. The last decade has seen a tremendous growth in the manufacturing and consumption of electronic and electrical equipment all over the world, because of which a combined with rapid product obsolescence, and lower costs, discarded electronic and electrical equipment or ‘e-waste’ is now the most rapidly growing waste problem in the world.

Sectoral Pain Points

  • Improper disposal of e-waste leads to many problems, most of which users and producers are still not aware of.
  • Lack of data to estimate how much of this e-waste was recycled and how much of it was disposed of.
  • E waste is mostly disposed of by improper and conventional means such as acid leaching and open-air burning which further leads to emission of harmful substances leading to a negative impact on our environment.
  • People who dispose of these materials lack the essential methods as well as knowledge about the ways to dispose of e-waste which further exposes them to hazardous toxins.
  • Small scale recycling initiatives taken up by high-risk backyard operators who lack awareness about the correct ways to dispose of e-waste may cause health problems for individuals that are directly involved in recycling it.
  • The improper ways of recycling of the e-waste leads to wastage of resources and leads to losses in the recycled value of the material.
  • Lack of legislation on how to dispose of e-waste.
  • Cherry-picking by recyclers who only extract precious metals like gold, platinum, silver, copper etc. and improperly discard the rest poses a potential environmental hazard.

About AGNIi

The AGNIi Mission is a flagship initiative of the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India, under the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC). The Office executes the Mission in collaboration with Invest India, the national investment promotion agency. AGNIi catalyzes the commercialization of Indian emerging technologies: helping enterprise, government, and non-profits upgrade capability and competitiveness with Indian startup and R&D lab innovation. The AGNIi team has collaborated with Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) and various renowned organizations in the space of e-waste such as the Delhi, Hyderabad and Bhubaneshwar S&T cluster (DRIIV, RICH and BKCIC respectively), C-MET Hyderabad, CIPET Bhubaneshwar, CSIR-NEERI, CSIR-NML, TERI and many more. The objective is to take these technologies to the recyclers, PROs and electronic goods manufacturers for potential adoption. 

Technological Solutions for E-Waste Recycling

BARC Technologies

AGNIi in collaboration with BARC offers a broad spectrum of technologies for e-waste recycling ranging from Technology for Recycling of Rare Earths from Nd-Fe-B (Computer Hard Disk Drive: HDD) Magnetic Scrap to novel separation techniques for Dysprosium(Dy) separation from Nd-Pr-Dy product obtained from magnetic scrap recycling; from process for removal of mercury and recovery of rare earth (Y, Eu, Tb) from end-of-life Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) to Technology for the Production of Neodymium Metal employing Metallothermicreduction technique; from Lanthanum Metal Technology to Praseodymium Metal Technology and Cerium Metal Technology and so on and so forth. All these technologies for e waste recycling and urban mining for rare earth elements, valuable and hazardous elements have been carefully developed and evaluated by highly qualified scientists at the BARC, given their brilliance and expertise in the technology innovation arena. These are spin-off technologies as important core technical works at BARC has decades of experience in technology transfer and the processes are well established by technology transfer and collaboration division (TTCD). On boarding with the office of PSA to the Government of India, these BARC technological solutions are actively being commercialized by the AGNIi Mission, facilitating its investment and promotion. Most of these technologies are at TRL 6, that is market deployable and ready for commercial adoption. Such technologies have the potential to generate higher revenues due to high recovery rate and purity of extracted materials.

Moreover, these technologies are highly energy efficient and cost effective, making it commercially viable. Therefore, experts at AGNIi are diligently engaging with apex bodies like CEAMA, MAIT and other industry associations to enhance the development of consumer electronics and appliances industry and its components and further explore such innovations.

Strengthening Ecosystem on E-Waste Management

O/o the PSA to the Government of India recently conducted first to its kind technology roundtable on eco-friendly management of e-waste and circular economy framework, in July 2021. The eminent Dr Arabinda Mitra, Scientific Secretary, O/o the PSA to the Government of India, chaired the roundtable discussions.

The overarching goal of this webinar was to develop and harness synergies in R&D efforts and create a common platform for all R&D efforts in the domain of e-waste management. This webinar intended to facilitate a collaboration mechanism, to create strong linkages between the research communities, by avoiding duplication of efforts. Multiple aspects of technology encashment with the help of AGNIi was also discussed. This session ensured that technologies developed in the country, get due attention of entrepreneurs and industry. All participants were also informed about development of exclusive ‘e-waste technologies catalogue’ in the I-STEM National Web Portal, at IISc Bangalore. 

A quick glimpse at the technological solutions presented at the webinar highlighted the rising concern of e-waste management along with the advent of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) waste due to the rapid evolution of the digital economy. In addition to this, there is also an alarming rise in the improper disposal of waste by the informal sector. It was emphasised that connections between the R&D labs and the start-up ecosystem must be strengthened to overcome this challenge. As a result, various organisations came forward with tangible, affordable and scalable solutions. 

Way forward

The presentations elucidated presence of innovations to manage e-waste at laboratory level. It seeks commercialisation support for easy deployment in the market. Through this article, AGNIi mission reaches out to recycling community for early adoption of these technologies. To begin with, here is a chance to express interest in the BARC developed e-waste management technologies extracting rare earth metals. Click on the link below in this regard. Reach out to support.agnii@investindia.org.in for further enquiry/support. 

BARC e-waste technology EoI: https://forms.gle/DJLpaL8TJaWx5RXSA