E-normous Efforts with E-Waste: Nithu Carthikeyan

Nithu Carthikeyan goes around the Bay Area collecting E-Waste to alleviate the issue and help the community stay clean.

Akshita Nair

Nithu Carthikeyan goes around the Bay Area collecting E-Waste to alleviate the issue and help the community stay clean.

Akshita Nair, Entertainment Editor

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Constant updating on websites, weekly visits to drop-off centers, and long drives to recycling centers are just a small part of the work that Nithu Carthikeyan (11) has done to alleviate the issue of electronic waste in the Bay Area. With a growing technological focus in the world, it’s inevitable that as new inventions come along, old technology must go. Unfortunately, this E-Waste often ends up in landfills which are exported to third-world and underdeveloped countries where the inhabitants will have to deal with it instead. 

Contact between E-Waste and humans can cause many types of health problems, notably in the respiratory system, and especially poses a danger to developing children. The chemicals from the landfills seep into the environment and begin a chain reaction: animals consume these chemicals from crops, humans consume these animals, and harmful chemicals such as mercury and lead find their way into body systems. Since most of the residents of these underdeveloped countries don’t have access to healthcare, they are left even more vulnerable than most to the harmful effects of this waste. But where exactly should all this E-Waste go if not to these landfills?

It all started with the CHANGE project back in Carthikeyan’s freshman year, as his topic was the issue of E-Waste. Despite completing the project, he still felt the need to do more. 

“I did research during the CHANGE project so I got to really see how dangerous E-Waste  was and just what it is comprised of, such as the harmful chemicals inside,” he said. “After the CHANGE project, I still saw E-Waste around people’s homes and around the community, so even after receiving the grade, I still thought of it as something dangerous.”

This led him to create his own organization called “Keep the Bay Beautiful” in which he sets up locations for people to drop off their E-Waste to be later picked up and properly disposed of. He drops off the waste at specified E-Waste recycling centers, which break down the parts, or at other companies such as Staples, which re-uses the parts.

He has his own website in which he informs the general public where his future events are located, where they can drop off their e-waste, what types of electronics he will accept, and basic information detailing the dangers  of E-Waste. He’s even programmed a chatbot so that it can keep the site tidy when he is busy with schoolwork and other activities. He values the use of technology to further enhance his program.  

“I’m creating a program where I’ll collect data from different residents and communities to see the types of E-Waste collected. From there, I can use data mining to see the most prevalent types of electronic waste there,” he explained. “For example, I can detect special types of computers and phones, and use those components and possibly sell them.”

Carthikeyan donates the money he collects to homeless shelters and orphanages. Thus far, Nithu has collected over 30,000 pounds of E-Waste. He plans to expand the program past Fremont and the Bay Area, hoping that his efforts will affect nationwide change, and maybe even help third-world and undeveloped nations.