After experiencing the slums where Delhi’s poorest residents live and sort garbage, it felt like we had traveled 10 light years rather than the roughly 10 kilometers down the road to meet the young, fresh entrepreneurs of TIC Group.
It was easy to forget about the heat and harsh conditions outside while I sipped ice cold soda beneath the watchful eye of a surveillance camera in the air conditioned e-waste recycling warehouse. TIC is located in the special economic zone where the company’s recycling activities are exempted from some taxes as long as they export a percentage of their materials.
TIC Group India CEO Pranav Tripathi is a 23 year old Tufts University graduate. Pranav is on his third business start up. His first start-up supplies slaughterhouse waste to an Australian company for recycling into pharmaceutical products. The e-waste business, also a subsidiary of an Australian company, provides specialized security services to the largest institutions, BPO’s (call centers) as well as name brand computer makers. Their cathode tube Ray (CRT) crusher installed by TIC Unit Manager Rajender Singh, is thought to be the first crusher in India.
According to Tripathi, the BPOs want to protect the data on the computers where as the large brand manufacturers don’t want their products to enter the secondary (reuse) market because they don’t want their primary market sales to decline.
Tripathi’s newest endeavor is to convert e-waste plastic into carbon nanotubes and other nanomaterials. He can produce 10 different types of nanostructures and has already found markets for some of the nanomaterials.
Of course, Lauren and I have expressed our concern about the environmental and health implications of using e-waste plastics to create nanotubes. India has only recently developed guidelines for e-waste recycling and, like most other nations, including the United States, India hasn’t created environmental regulations to address the unique properties and potentially hazardous impacts of nanomaterials.
Tripathi readily shared the same concern about the need for environmental and health regulations for nanotechnology, however, he made clear that the Indian laws would just have to catch up. He pointed to the stark white warehouse walls and gray cement floors that were already painted with nanopaint products.
The thought of the two young guys solving India’s e-waste problems by leaping ahead into producing untested and unregulated nanomaterials is distressing. Oddly, I felt as much exposed to the unknown health impacts of the nanopaint as I did to the contaminants in the sorting areas of the slums.
– Sheila Davis (Executive Director, SVTC)