New online platform to promote reuse, repair, recycle e-waste

New online platform to promote reuse, repair, recycle e-waste

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras is creating a new approach for addressing electronic trash (e-waste) by bringing together formal and informal sector partners. It will be an exchange platform that acts as an online marketplace for surplus electrical and electronic equipment and facilitates the establishment of a formal supply chain among various parties.

The globe currently generates 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste every year, according to research. This figure is predicted to more than double during the next 16 years. Additionally, studies suggest that 85% of this is lost globally. E-waste is a critical issue in India, particularly because, despite being the third largest producer of e-waste in the world, only 5% of its e-waste is recycled effectively.

Researchers at IIT Madras are developing the model, which they think has the potential to unlock a $50 billion industry. The programme is being led by the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability (IGCS), which is housed on the campus of IIT-Madras in Chennai. The Centre conducts research on sustainability issues. It is supported by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of the Government of India and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Prof. Sudhir Chella Rajan, Faculty Member of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at IIT-Madras and IGCS, stated, "e-source is an open-source platform that will evolve toward utilising machine learning to improve the traceability of e-waste in accordance with guidelines and to expand opportunities for repair and re-use of e-waste." This might potentially improve the livelihoods of youth and women in peri-urban areas by enhancing their skills and occupational health and safety, reducing the flow of dangerous chemicals into waste streams, and expanding the market for affordable, used e-devices.”

According to him, the research team has already conducted early market research and stakeholder mapping through direct interactions and consultations, as well as secondary research. “The web platform's beta version is complete, and the team is now seeking additional partners from the ecosystem, particularly informal e-waste aggregators, to kick-start the trial run.”

A critical part of the endeavour is that the team will deploy a detection system that will extract product information and upload it to the database using a combination of image processing and natural language processing techniques. Once large data sets are available, the team will progress to applying machine learning capabilities to ensure quick retrieval and proper indexing of the goods in order to accurately reflect the users' perspective and relevant parts of the processes.

The programme will focus on establishing collaborations with and influencing informal market stakeholders who are the key users/buyers of used electronic items and suppliers of electronic spares, ICT components, and electronic equipment. This is to ensure that sufficient volumes for repair, re-use, and recycling are generated to support larger players (e.g., authorised recyclers) while also assisting stand-alone repair technicians in acquiring electronic components (EC's) outside of the centralised grey markets.