Indian Banks Generating  More eWaste Than NPAs

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 World will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”

Indian Banks Generating  More eWaste Than NPAs. Electronic equipment has become an integral part of everyday life. Their availability and widespread use have benefited people to lead higher standards of living. The electronics industry is the world’s largest and fastest growing manufacturing industry. It has witnessed rapid growth combined with rapid product obsolescence resulting in discarded electronics. Indian Banks with a large customer base are also experiencing high rates of consumption of electronic products. The way, banks produce, consume and dispose of e-waste is unsustainable. India is the third largest producer of e-waste due to its banks after China and the USA, the three countries contributing 38% of the total refuse.

 

Legally, the ‘e-waste’ means, “electrical and electronic equipment, whole or in part discarded as waste by the consumer or bulk consumer as well as rejects from manufacturing, refurbishment and repair processes” Indian Banks with a network of more than three lac branches, back offices, controlling offices and affiliates, are one of the biggest generators of e-waste in India. So, whose responsibility is to manage e-waste in our country? It’s not central, state, or local governments or manufacturers, but bulk consumers of electronic products for mass banking- banks.

 

E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016 are notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests; Government of India by exercising the powers conferred by the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and have come into effect from the 1st October, 2016. All banks in the country have to align their e-waste policies with these Rules. Apart from SBI, leading banks like PNB, BOB, IDBI, ICICI, HDFC , IDBI and Yes Bank have adopted such policies but more for ostentation than practice. The only purpose for which a bank manger is seen in the Pollution Control office is to mobilise deposits that are big and attractive due to languishing and non implementation of projects and policies of pollution control.

 

The Banks are classified as a bulk consumers of electric and electronic equipment by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India. Banks should ensure that e-waste generated by them is channelized through dismantlers or recyclers and make such records available for scrutiny by the concerned State Pollution Control Board.

 

The “Electronic Waste (e-waste) Management Policy should be applicable to all locations of the Bank within India including all assets hosted by the Bank, business processes, operations, employees, and third parties of the Bank. The policy should cover the handling of all electronic assets which are obsolete or broken and considered as having no more useful/serviceable life and hence are intended to be sold, donated, or discarded. The policy should generate awareness amongst staff for proper maintenance and disposal at the end of their useful life.

 

All types of electrical white goods, electronic equipment, Servers, Desktops, Laptops, communication equipments, cables, connectors, switches, modems, firewalls, routers, electronic media used for storage of data tapes, floppies, CDs, DVDs, VCDs, external storage devices like Tape, Hard Disk , computer stationery, power systems,UPS, Inverters, batteries  used in all the offices of Banks and and their residential quarters, guest houses, holiday homes which have outlived useful life or have no more serviceable life are considered as e-waste items and should be covered under this policy.

 

Although India is the  the largest eWaste generator after China (101MT) and USA (6.9MT) it’s contribution of 2.4 kg of hazardous waste per person is much below the global average of 7.3 kg per person. Globally the generation of waste grows by 9.2MT year on year and is projected to grow to 74.17 MT by 2030. On average, the world discards  50 million tonnes of e-Waste per year of which only about 20% is formally recycled. Around 8% of the e-waste is discarded in waste bins and subsequently landfilled.

 

Asia generated the highest quantity of e-waste last year at 24.9 MT, followed by the Americas ,13.1 MT and Europe 12 MT, while Africa and Oceania generated 2.9 MT and 0.7 MT, respectively. Europe ranked first worldwide in terms of e-Waste generation, with 16.2 kg per person. Oceania was second (16.1 kg), followed by the Americas (13.3 kg).On average, the total weight of global electronic consumption increases annually by 2.5 million MT.

E-waste handling is a problem of increasing proportion, especially when crude methods are adopted for recovery of useful components from it. In India, the current estimate projects 2.7 million tons of E-waste generation annually. The total value of all the raw material present in e-waste generated in India in 2019 has been estimated to be Rs 2.68 lakh crore.

Banks have  a social responsibility towards proper handling of e-waste generated with a view to protecting the environment which may be polluted by toxic gases and other non-biodegradable substances which are discharged through e-waste. Being a large user of electrical and electronic goods across the nation with large network of branches, ATMs, Kiosks each Bank is duty bound to have in place, a well defined and transparent e-waste management policy that imparts sound knowledge in proper e-waste management to its staff.

Provision of centralised printing / photocopying facilities in branches / offices of the Bank reduces the purchase of consumables and reduce e-waste generation. Every bank should take into account buy back arrangement available with the vendor after the end of equipment’s useful life to ensure reduction of e-waste. At the time of purchase of new electronic items due care to be given in selecting energy efficient and eco-efficient technology products. The services of the AMC vendors should be used to recycle e-waste into usable products by upgradation. A clause to this effect should be included in the AMC agreement with vendors.

Hard Disk on personal computers / servers / laptops should not be provided along with the system. Such Hard Disks/storage media are to be destroyed using methods of destruction like incineration, crushing, shredding, disintegration, and dissolving using caustic or acidic chemicals . All floppies / CDs / DVDs/VCDs / tapes, secondary storage media and networking devices like Switch, Firewall, Routers  should be physically destroyed before disposal in order to ensure removal of data before providing to e-waste suppliers, re-cyclers or re-processors.

e-Waste contains several toxic additives and hazardous substances, such as mercury, brominated flame retardants (BFR), and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The increasing levels of e-Waste, inadequate collection rates, and non-environmentally sound disposal and treatment of the waste stream pose significant risks to the environment and human health. Improper management of e-Waste also contributes to global warming. eWaste creates kidney damage, skin disorders and nervous and immune systems. Affected bankers report stress, headache, shortness of breath, chest pain, weakness, and dizziness. The risk to growing children in formative years, who visit banks with their parents should be avoided at all costs.Good banking is produced not by good laws but by good bankers.

On a positive side, the eWaste is an ‘urban mine’, containing precious, metals that, if recycled, can be used as secondary materials. The value of raw materials in the global e-waste generated in 2019 is equal to $57 billion.Raw material worth $10 billion is recovered in an environmental sound way globally.Ironically only 17.45% of the total eWaste is recycled worldwide, leaving 69 precious metals like gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium, iridium, osmium. cobalt, palladium, indium, germanium, bismuth, and aluminium and iron worth USD 75 billion dumped or burned in waste. India with much lower recycling capacity of 8 lac metric tons annually is at a further loss due to its inability to extract precious and critical material from eWaste.

In order to suppress environmentally  hazardous waste generating pattern by Banks, adequate resources should be provided to pollution control boards to combat illegal creation of e-Waste and penalties for neglecting e-Waste should be imposed against defaulting Banks as deterrent, for breaking the law. The government should setup a true Bad Bank to collect the eWaste of various banks across India and process the same as per international practices of dealing with eWaste. This will make people coming laughing to the bank for investment in happiness of life.

The task of modern banker is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. Make Indian Banks Pollution Free.

 

Hargovind Sachdev

 hargovindsachdev@gmail.com

Mr. Hargovind Sachdev is an Ex-Banker, GM(Retd) of State Bank of India. Has over 39 years of experience in banking, having occu-pied senior positions in UCO Bank, United Bank of India,State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Travancore & State Bank of India where he headed the Central European Credit Desk at Frankfurt,Germany from 2006 to 2011 covering 15 countries of Central Europe.Has undergone International Banking Training from Asian Institute of Management, Manila, Philippines in the Year 2003 and a Multi-currency lending-technique training at the Euro Money Institute, London in 2009.

He has specialisation in Credit, Foreign Exchange,Vigilance, Monitoring & appraisal of Corporate Loans, MSME Credit,Gold Loans, Agricultural Loans & NRI Business Management in assets & liabilities. As a Forensic Auditor, he has conducted various Transaction Audits allotted by Banks.

He was felicitated by the Central Vigilance Commissioner , Sh. C.V Chowdhry for winning first prize for best article on Preventive Vigilance in 2015. He is also an accomplished Public Speaker hav-ing conducted multiple Motivational Seminars for institutions like ONGC, National Housing Bank & Bank of Baroda. He is an Inde-pendent Director & consultant to various big entities in corporate sector at present.

 

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