Tuesday, 21 August 2012

E-waste Rules

E-wastes are considered dangerous, as certain electronic components contain substances such as lead, cadmium, lead oxide (in cathode ray tubes), toxic gases, toxic metals, biologically active materials, acids, plastics and plastic additives. These substances are considered hazardous depending on their condition and density. 
India, at present, generates about 400,000 tonnes of e-wastes annually of which only 19,000 tonnes are getting recycled (2011 data). According to Mait, around 40 per cent of the unused and obsolete electronic products sit idle at homes, godowns and warehouses as one does not know what to do with it or there is no systematic mechanism to dispose it.

Keeping the severity of the problem, the GoI notified "E-waste (management and handling) Rules" in 2011 and have come into force in June 2012. These rules are expected to address the growing problem of e-waste and encourage recycling of all useful and valuable material from e-waste so as to conserve the ever depleting natural resources. The rules will come under the Environment Protection Act (EPA).

The salient features of the rules are:

  1. Producer is responsible for "setting up collection centres or take-back (electronic) systems either individually or collectively". The decision about the mechanism for collection can be decided by individual producer in accordance with their company policy. This puts the onus of environmentally safe e-waste disposal on the manufacturers.
  2. Rules shall apply to every producer, consumer or bulk consumer, collection centre, dismantler and recycler of e-waste involved in manufacture, sale, purchase and processing of electrical and electronic equipment.
  3. Producers will have to make consumers aware about the hazardous components present in the product. 
  4. Instructions for consumers for handling the equipment after its use, along with the do’s and don’t’s. This will prevent e-waste from being dropped in garbage bins.
  5. Bulk consumers such as enterprises and government will be responsible for recycling of the e-wastes generated by them. The bulk users have to ensure that the e-waste generated by them is channelized to authorised collection centres or is taken back by the producers.
  6. The State Pollution Control Board will be required to prepare and submit an annual report to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) with regard to implementation of these rules. 
  7. On receiving which, the CPCB will have to prepare a consolidated annual review on management of e-waste and forward it to the government along with its recommendations.
  8. The rules will not apply to lead acid batteries, Micro and small enterprises and radio-active wastes.
But some concerns about the rules remain:
The rules require authorisation from the Pollution Control Boards of multiple states, which adds to the administrative burden of the companies. A single authorisation will improve the level of compliance.


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