Mohsin Shaikh - Owner & CEO at eTurn Recycling
Offering solutions to existing electronic waste management, Mr. Mohsin Shaikh speaks about the opportunities and challenges faced in the new normal in the post pandemic phase.
E-waste has become a critical concern during the pandemic as the lockdown forced the worldwide private and public sectors to lock their offices and move towards work-from- home setup. The flood of new devices to cope up with remote working has raised the concerns over data management and sanitisation, as more devices mean data being stored at different places which if not decommissioned properly increases the risk of data breaches. E-waste contains hazardous substances and hence has to be recycled in a safe and eco-friendly manner and while people are adapting to new technology and devices, the concerns over the proper disposal of the old ones becomes graver.
The containment of the coronavirus's spread and restrictions on free movement not only locked us all in our homes, but also limited the mobility of e-waste management. “Working during the lockdown was extremely difficult as being a non- essential commodity, we had no exemption from the lockdown rules” reveals Mr. Mohsin Shaikh, owner and Chief Executive Officer at E-TURN RECYCLING - one of the handfuls of listed companies in the waste management space that work towards the sustainable disposal of e-waste. “We believe in the 3 R’s- ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle’ so that the e-waste is handled in an eco-friendly way, maximising value recovery from end-of-life IT assets” explains Mr. Shaikh who developed a keen interest in the field of e-waste management during his graduation and decided to expand his family business of scrap and give it a futuristic approach. Today, ‘eTurn Recycling’ is a well-known name in e-waste management, providing cost-effective and complete e-waste management solutions. Our guest, Mr. Shaikh gives us a walk-through of his experiences of working during the pandemic towards creating a clutter-free India.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
As companies were shut and everyone was working from home, working was a big challenge for us. We didn’t fall under the essential category and hence were not allowed to work during the lockdown. There were a lot of communication gaps as our work requires inspection of material before finalising the deal and due to lockdown restrictions the inspections were not possible, which is why we had to purchase the material without proper inspections. Although there was a huge risk of having losses due to non- inspection of materials, we had to keep going on as disposing of the toxic elements was a bigger priority for us than making profits..
The pandemic has increased the use of electronic devices in daily life. Do you look at it as an opportunity or as responsibility for your business?
It is a very good opportunity for us who are in the business. We are expecting a good boom for the recycling business after the slowdown caused due to pandemic. We are in plans to expand our services as the new normal has brought new challenges and opportunities for all of us in this business.
Post pandemic the new work-from-home culture has given rise to concerns over data breaches. How can e-waste management help?
In eTurn Recycling, we work with MNCs who have huge servers and devices for storing data in one place but post-pandemic the same data is being stored in individual systems at different places. Also, the rapidly changing technology forces people to upgrade their devices very frequently. In this situation if the devices are not disposed of properly they pose a threat of data getting leaked out which further causes data breaches. From collection and disposal of e-waste, secure data destruction services, to hazardous waste treatment we provide a safe & complete solution for the disposal of e-waste following the guidelines and certification of the State Pollution Control Board.
Other than the concerns over data breaches. Why is it important to recycle e- waste?In simple words, e-waste is discarded electrical or electronic devices. Products like televisions, refrigerators, computers, mobile phones, all when discarded become e-waste and are largely made up of metals, plastics, and glass, which once salvaged give precious metals such as copper, iron, tin, nickel, lead, zinc, silver, gold, and palladium. Printed circuit boards contain rare and precious metals such as ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum; together referred to as the Platinum Group Metals. These are not only valuable but also become hazardous for nature and humans if left unattended. Recycling keeps devices (with deadly toxins) out of landfills and ensures the valuable parts within them can be reused to make new products.
What are the major services that you provide to your clients?
At eTurn recycling, we work towards the proper disposal of e-waste
i.e. the waste and discarded electronic products. Some of the major
industrial services we offer includes IT Asset Disposal Services,
Data Destruction, and Take-Back Programs. We also offer customised
and cost-effective solutions with international data security standards
that caters to our clients specific requirement.
Do you provide recycling of the e-waste that you collect? What is the ideal recycling procedure that you follow?
After getting approval from the client to collect their waste, we first inspect the material to check the quantity and nature of the waste. Once the inspection is complete, we take the approval from the client for entry of our trucks with labourers. The e-waste is then taken to our facility at Uruli Devachi, Hadapsar where we have a well-trained team ready with all the safety equipment like PPE kits, masks, and unloads the trucks and segregates the items into working and non-working categories. The working materials are sent to authorised recycle centers and smelters for refurbishing while the non-working and hazardous waste like glass, oil and other waste is sent to MEPL Ranjangaon.
Do you think there is a need for more awareness and organised e-waste recycling facilities in India?
Yes. Consumers are the key to better management of e-waste, and there should be more awareness amongst people about the disposal of e-waste as improper disposals are not only adding to the clutter but are also hazardous for both nature and humans. Gradually, with time the disposal facilities are being set up in the cities, but those in the rural areas do not get access to such facilities and need more awareness regarding the same. E-waste collection, transportation, processing, and recycling are still dominated by the informal sector. I feel, with help of proper technologies, the government should take a step towards organising this sector in a more proper and systematic manner.
As an entrepreneur what challenges do you face in the e-waste business? Do you get any support from the government in your venture?
No, till now we are working independently and do not receive any support from the government. The biggest challenge that we are facing now is that the companies tend to make profits from their e-waste making them expensive to buy. They auction the material at a very high price making it difficult for us to buy from them.
Much is being talked about the health risks of the people engaged in the disposal and recycling of e-waste. What measures do you take to ensure the safety and well- being of your employees?
For us, the safety of our employees is of utmost importance. We ensure that our employees wear all safety measures while working. All our employees have medical insurance, and the company conducts a quarterly medical check-up free of cost. I believe our employees are the ones who are our most important assets and who work rigorously to take my company further.
The flood of new technology during the pandemic has created some serious concerns for both e-waste and secure data management. While companies were used to of working on their secured servers, they are now depending on the personal devices of their employees to cope up with the work-from-home working model. It has now become crucial not only to manage the toxins in the electronic waste but also to provide proper data sanitisation as this will not only reduce the environmental impact but will also remove the risk of data breaches while saying goodbye to your old devices. While the e-waste management sector needs to be more organised in India, ‘consumer is the key’, so let’s team up together and help India fight the toxic effects of e-waste and take an oath to dispose our old electronic equipment in the prescribed manner.
‘The new normal demands a switch from a ‘buy, use, dispose’ approach, to a ‘take, make, reuse, recycle’ mindset.'