Managing Waste

Managing waste has assumed primary importance around the globe. Given that any kind of waste be it electronic (e-waste) or solid waste can be recycled more and more people are looking at this as a career opportunity. Not only does it promise a profitable business it also satiates one’s passion to save the environment.

E waste fundamentals:

The electronics industry is one of the world’s largest and fastest growing manufacturing industries. Recent policy changes in India have led to an influx of MNCs who are setting up facilities and R&D centers for hardware and software. This has surely aided the economy but has also facilitated the problem of too many options for the consumer, who now tends to move on and replace a number of e goods while discarding earlier ones. This is leading to a unique situation of growing piles of e-waste.

The term e waste connotes electronics / electrical goods that are unfit for the original intended use or have reached the end of their lives. These include not only computers but also CDs, printers, calculators, scanners, cell phones, TV as also white goods such as refrigerators and ACs.

The Basel Action Network (BAN) which works for the prevention of globalization of toxic chemicals states in a report that 50 to 80 per cent of e waste collected by the US is exported to India, China, Pakistan, Taiwan and to some African countries. While China has now banned the import of e waste, India and Pakistan are yet to take any steps and as a result the disposal and recycling is found to be highly polluting these countries. The West exports this e waste due to the availability of cheap labor in these countries.

Need to recycle:

There is an exponential growth in e waste as consumption increases particularly in white goods. The total amount of e waste in India is more than 1,476,000 tones each year. Though many initiatives have been taken and there has been an increase in awareness e waste still remains a major hazard and managing it, is a challenge. The two problems here are: availability of raw material and leakage of material to the informal sector. There needs to be a fixed set of laws that aid scientific recycling.

Industry scope:

The waste produced from such goods contains various materials such as gold, silver, copper and platinum which can be processed for recovery and reuse.

In many of the South-East Asian countries waste collection has fast become a private initiative that has accelerated the growth of waste management. There is immense scope of development as far as engineering the sites, trapping methane and organized ways of recycling are concerned.

Career prospects:

Environmental management and engineering is a well established stream in the West. In India the main thrust comes from NGOs and individuals concerned about environment. The government seems rather slow in legislation and taking concrete steps. The young are however, conscious of this emerging career prospect and are thinking closely on these issues.

Courses on offer

The diploma courses in waste management that also cater to the area of expertise. The Center for Environmental studies has a very interesting course on Environmental Challenge in India that covers all the aspects of dealing with waste.

UNESCO has an academic program in this area of work while a number of universities in the UK and US offer specializations. MTech can also undergo a course on environmental engineering or environmental management and BSc in environmental science or a Doctorate of Philosophy in Eco sustainability and Hazardous Waste management.

And also courses on entrepreneurship if one is interested in going to their own venture / NGO.

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