Tons of wires, some burnt and some half-used with the copper jutting out, dozens of old mobile phones abandoned on shelves of hostels, hundreds of broken capacitors and plenty of old P3 computers — these are merely some things that comprise the vast mass of e-waste generated from colleges, a real treasure trove for recyclers.

But what if colleges and students, instead of being mere polluters, become pro-active agents of change?

Students often pay a considerable fee to participate in fests in other colleges. What if the student who brings the maximum e-waste to the fest is exempted from the fee? Wouldn't this incentive prompt many students to think about discarding at least their old phones in the right way?

Students of the department of Electronics and Communications, College of Engineering, with support from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, have come up with this novel strategy.

The initiative comes less than two months before the implementation of the extended producer responsibility of the e- waste rules. Educational institutes will be held responsible for the disposal of their electronic goods they use from May 1, when the rules come into effect.

“We asked students to bring along all the e-waste they can think of — hard disks, pen drives, spare parts of mobile phones, parts of the CPU including many mother boards and plenty of wires, anything that seems to clutter their room,” says Saravanan Jayapalan, a student of CEG who mooted the idea. All this has been collected to be sent to an authorised recycling plant.

The venture was started as part of the department fest, Vision 2012, part of which was an e-waste management campaign. Rudhra Vignesh, a final year student explains,

“For two years, as part of working with electronic circuits, we use a lot of tiny semi-conductors and resistors and throw them away in the dustbin. The point is also to draw attention to them, and not just to the visible e-waste like monitors.”

Many colleges dispose of their regular e-waste to the informal sector, and this needs to be checked. Burning CRT monitors or extraction of metals from e-waste using rudimentary methods releases poisonous gases that are detrimental to both public health and the environment, observes N. Kumaravel, head of the ECE department.

“One might think that the quantum of e-waste generated is not really alarming, but now every student has at least four gadgets (laptop, pen drives, hard disks, mobile phones) that get obsolete in less than five years. These things should not end in some solid waste bin or be recycled informally,” he says

The idea is to promote collection centres in every college so that the all e-waste can be collected in bulk.

“Every department in the college has its way of disposing of its waste but that is done at a very slow pace and that too, after a lot of paper work. And as engineers, we also get to go to a recycling plant and assure ourselves that that it is being disposed of in the right way,” says Rudhra.

Keywords: e-waste

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