Urban India (about 377 million people) generates 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste each year. 50% is dumped in landfill sites.
Of this, around 3.1million tonnes is e-waste.
This has created a new e-waste stream in the country containing obsolete, End of life Electrical and Electronics Equipment discarded after their intended use. Without regulation, these landfills, or urban mines now form part of the urban landscape living side by side with the informal urban population.
The number of people living in informal settlements in India has more than doubled in the past two decades and now exceeds the entire population of Britain.
According to the 2011 census, about 78 million people in India live in informal settlements. 17% of the world's informal urban population reside in India.
The presence of toxic and hazardous substances in e-waste equipment attracted the attention of the waste management agencies in the country because these substances endanger human health and the environment, wherever present in uncontrolled conditions. According to the Global E-waste Monitor, 53.6 million tons of electronic waste was generated worldwide in 2019. The figure increased by 21 percent in just five years, making e-waste the fastest growing domestic waste stream in the world.
Challenges we ran into
In 2019, India was identified as one of the leading generators of e-waste globally.
Despite being the third largest in generation of e-waste, they failed to make the top 10 countries to record.
At present the United Kingdom exports an equivalent weight of 19.8 eiffel towers of e-waste to developing countries.
In 2019 only 20% of Indians recognised waste management as a priority climate issue.
Over a period of 14 years, the number of smartphones sold has increased by almost 14-fold.
At present electrical manufacturers work on a cradle to grave life cycle for the production and disposal of lithium-ion batteries.
Despite many Countries employing policy, the coverage rate can be misleading, as it gives the impression that there is little left to do in terms of regulating e-waste: in many countries, policies are non-legally binding.
However, even where legally binding policies are enacted, enforcement is a key issue.
How do we promote and enable policies for recycling e-waste?
How we built it
Using dedicated Re-Li-Ion community recycling centres, we intend to employ local women like Sita to safely sort end-of-use Lithium-Ion batteries from Waste Electrical and Electronic equipment directly from the consumer and from landfills.
Partnering with dedicated Lithium Ion recycling R&D facilities, the end of use lithium-ion batteries will be recycled to extract the raw materials needed for the production of new Li-Ion batteries.
The raw materials recovered, are purchased back by the original battery manufacturer and will be used to make new lithium-ion batteries, ultimately lowering manufacturing costs.
In many types of Lithium-ion batteries, the concentrations of cathode metals, cobalt and nickel, along with those of lithium and manganese, exceed the concentrations in natural ores, making spent batteries akin to highly enriched ore. If these metals can be recovered from used batteries at a large scale and more economically than from natural ore, the price of batteries should drop.
Electronics manufacturers are required to include a unique scannable code for each lithium- ion battery device. Our customers are able to register each of their current electrical devices onto our app. This allows the Li-Ion recycling plants to estimate the amount of future e-waste and for manufacturers to comply with E-Waste regulations.
These electrical goods can then be diverted directly to the recycling centres when they reach end of use, thus avoiding landfill.
What it does
These recycling centres will provide safe employment and are powered by both solar technology and biofuel collected from the communities. This also allows us to contribute to creating open defecation free environments in informal settlements. These batteries and solar panels will be connected to the main grid using net metering, allowing the center to generate a passive income from excess energy generated.
For every device Sita registers on her account, she can claim energy credits to use at the Re-Li-Ion Center. She also recommends her friends to download the app and add their devices. Both Sita and her friend receive energy credits. It’s not long before all of Sita’s friends and family are using Re-Li-Ion!
## What's next for Re-Li-Ion
An enormous task requires an enormous amount of innovation, support and some funding. Obviously, this cannot be financed just via the multilateral development banks and other mechanisms we have in place,we have to look to sustainable solutions - how can we raise those funds and include sustainable revenue streams.
Between the communities on the ground to the national and international government departments, we believe that bringing together a diverse team will enable this innovative solution to reach market ready status.