IIT Madras to develop online platform for e-waste management

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on August 31, 2021

Platform will serve as an online marketplace for waste equipment

IIT Madras is developing an online platform called e-Source to tackle e-waste by linking various stakeholders in the formal and informal sectors. This initiative can become a critical resource by enabling reverse logistics supply chains and can help recycle 53.6 million tonnes of e-waste generated annually around the world and is potentially a $50 billion market, says a press release.

‘e-Source’ will be an exchange platform that will serve as an online marketplace for waste electrical and electronic equipment and facilitate a formal supply chain between various stakeholders (buyers and sellers). IIT Madras researchers, focused on the ‘circular economy,’ are working to address the gaps in the e-waste sector.

Solution for e-waste

e-waste is one of the pressing issues in India as well, with the country being the world’s third largest producer. Further, between 2019 and 2020, Indians generated 38 per cent more e-waste. However, what is more worrying is that only five percent of e-waste is recycled responsibly in the country.

The initiative is being spearheaded by the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability (IGCS). The IGCS team believes that the problem of e-waste could be resolved by connecting different buyers and sellers of used and waste electronic equipment and components without compromising their interests.

Prof. Sudhir Chella Rajan, Faculty Member, IGCS said that an open-source solution is needed, that is data enriched, leveraging the potential of transparency in formalised e-waste handling and management. E-waste is typically either completely stripped down for precious metals and other high-value materials or dumped in landfills, without exploring potential re-use and repurposing options. Unscientific recycling methods are harmful for waste handlers and the environment.”

Deploying the system

The IGCS Team has already completed initial market research and mapping of the various stakeholders in this e-waste ecosystem through direct on-the-ground/telephonic conversations and consultations combined with secondary research. The beta version of the online platform is ready, and the team is now looking at more collaborators from the ecosystem, especially informal e-waste aggregators, to kick-start the pilot run. It has also begun talks with a few partners, the release said.

The IGCS Team will deploy a detection system that uses a combination of image processing and natural language processing techniques to extract product information and upload it to the database. Once significant data sets are available, it would advance towards deploying machine learning capabilities to ensure easy retrieval and proper indexing of the products to meticulously reflect the users’ perspective and the relevant aspects of the processes. Such accuracy is crucial for promoting successful online trading.

This initiative requires forging collaborations and influencing the stakeholders in the informal markets who are primary users/buyers of used electronic goods and sellers of electronic spares, ICT components and electronic equipment. This would ensure enough volume is generated for repair, re-use and recycling for larger players to operate along with aiding stand-alone repairmen to acquire electronic components independent of the centralised grey markets, the release said

Published on August 30, 2021

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