by Srinath Srinivasan
Noida-based Attero Recycling addresses the e-waste build-up problem as consumers dispose of their electronic devices and electrical appliances once their life span is over. The startup extracts important elements and compounds from these discarded products that can be used in various industrial applications, using its own technology while trying to minimize the negative impact on the health of waste collectors in this largely unregulated sector.
“What we do is urban mining. We don’t dig the earth to extract the elements. We are the only company in the world today that gets carbon credits for every ton of e-waste recycled, from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,” says Nitin Gupta CEO and Co-Founder of Attero Recycling. What this means is that Attero’s recycling process takes much less energy to extract a gram of gold, for example, than it does to extract the same amount of gold from a virgin mine. Gupta also says that mined minerals are as pure as freshly mined minerals and that the whole process is highly efficient and leaves little to no waste in the supply chain.
Today Attero is proud to be the only company in India that recycles lithium-ion batteries to extract 99% of pharmaceutical-grade cobalt and lithium carbonate and return it to the supply chain as well as metals and other compounds, reducing dependence on imports. The company has received 20 patents in the United States and Europe on technologies for recycling lithium-ion batteries. In addition to the important components needed for lithium-ion batteries, India is a major importer of tin alloys. “Once we recycle e-waste, we will make India a net exporter of tin alloy this year,” says Gupta. The company returns mined metal to the supply chain as a vendor to manufacturers in various industries. “We currently supply Samsung, Tata Motors, Toyota, Vivo, Hitachi and Jio among many others, all while collecting waste from them,” says Gupta.
Waste collection outside industries was a challenging but socially impactful task. According to Gupta, the waste market is unregulated, consisting of daily wage workers with little or no digital knowledge, which makes it difficult to bring them into the realm of technology. This requires fieldwork to coordinate and collect e-waste rather than digitizing the entire process.
“When we collect directly from waste collectors, across India, we can offer them better prices and also prevent them from using crude methods of extracting minerals and chemicals. In some cases, the risks of their primitive operations have reduced their lifespan to 27 years among men while being Exploiting women and children in other cases, says Gupta, as he talks about the problems that workers have in this unorganized sector.
The company has raised $30 million in investment funds and owns all of the recycling plants.