Tackling E-waste

Cecilia D’Souza speaks to Riva Tulpule, a class 10 student at GEMS Modern Academy, Dubai, who runs WeCareDXB—an organisation that not only helps recycle e-waste, but also creates awareness about how hazardous e-waste can be for humans.

February 16, 2021 

Why did you start WeCareDXB?
Four years ago, when my family was moving homes, I realised that we had a lot of e-waste that needed to be disposed of. When I asked my mom why this waste can’t be thrown into the bin, she said it needed to be treated differently, but she wasn’t aware of the process. That’s when I started researching and realised that the e-waste problem was affecting our planet in a really big way. I also realised that like my family, many people are not aware of where to recycle e-waste and may also not have the time to go to recycling centres where e-waste is recycled. That’s when I started WeCareDXB, to help my neighbours and friends recycle their e-waste. I made small brochures and circulated them in my building. But not many took it seriously, so my dad suggested I should make an appeal video, stating the facts about e-waste, and offer to pick up the e-waste for recycling. The video needed a platform and I decided to start a Facebook page called WeCareDXB with my dad’s help, using his Facebook account. That’s how WeCareDXB was formed.

What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was to convince people to part with their e-waste as they would be concerned about their old photos and the data on their devices. The second problem was the storage of all the e-waste that was collected. And then came the problem of transporting the bulky items. However, all the above issues were tackled as I gave people tips on how to erase the data before handing over their devices. For example, dipping a phone in saltwater erases all the data on it. I also tied up with a recycling centre that helped me with all the e-waste. Lastly, I met a kind man who has a transport company, who offered to collect the large bulky items free of cost.

RobinAge Cover Story - Tackling E-waste

How did you raise awareness about your recycling campaign?
I created a brochure as well as appeal videos for all my campaigns, which I uploaded on my social media handles. In the videos, I included shocking facts about e-waste and its harmful effects, which helped in creating awareness about the issue.

How is the waste collected and given for recycling?
All the e-waste is collected by me with the help of my parents, who drive me to the homes of those who wish to contribute to the cause. The e-waste is then stored in the backyard of my house and when we have enough to transport, all the accumulated e-waste is collected by EnviroServe. They come in their green truck and take all the e-waste to the recycling centre where it is recycled.

What are the stages in the electronic waste recycling process?
Broadly speaking, e-waste items or appliances are collected and the wires are cut and put away separately to remove the copper from them. The e-waste is then crushed and manually sorted. Once the varied materials are separated, they are further treated so the desired metals or materials can be supplied as raw material for further use.

What is your aim behind this initiative?
The main aim of this initiative is to create awareness about the issue and encourage more and more people to recycle or reuse electronics. What’s worrisome is the amount of e-waste that is generated each year and it is rising at an alarming rate due to changes in technology.

How much e-waste have you collected in the last four years?

  • In 2017, when I started, I collected close to 1.1 tonnes.
  • In 2018, I collected 3.4 tonnes.
  • In 2019, I formed a team with my close friends and collected over 20 tonnes.
  • In 2020, I appealed to the student community in Dubai and 60+ students from 15 different schools joined my campaign. Last year, we were able to recycle over 2,000 electronic items. I collected over 25 tonnes of e-waste from various emirates in UAE.

What are the dangers involved in disposing of e-waste in the wrong way?
Disposing e-waste into dustbins makes it reach our landfills where the harmful chemicals in it leach into the soil, thereby contaminating the soil and underground water. E-waste also contains harmful and poisonous gases, which when released into the air cause air pollution and harm human health. Electronics are always releasing these gases and release them in our homes too; over a period of time, they can cause health issues.

Riva’s 5 Tips to Tackle E-Waste

  • When you upgrade your electronics, pass the old equipment to a person who may use it instead of discarding it. Reuse is more effective than recycling.
  • If your electronic equipment is obsolete and broken, recycle it in an environmentally friendly manner.
  • Reduce the use of electronic items wherever possible.
  • Learn some basic ways to fix a broken item.
  • Look for stores that may buy old electronic items in exchange for new ones.
RobinAge Cover Story - Tackling E-waste

ACTIVITY: Recycle It

List any 10 electronic items that can be recycled.

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