How OEMs, Retailers Can 'Scientifically' Recycle India's E-Waste

by CXOtoday News Desk    Mar 28, 2016


Rising levels of e-waste generation in India is becoming a matter of concern. As a result, the Centre has notified the revised e-waste management rules 2016 under which improper management of waste leading to environment damage will invite financial penalty.

The Environment Ministry has tightened rules by putting the onus on manufacturers, dealers, retailers and refurbishers of electronic goods to ensure that electronic or e-waste goods are collected and “scientifically” recycled. The new norms take into account fines, a greater involvement of states in policing and collection as well as bringing exhausted compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) and other mercury-containing lamps in to the purview of electronic waste.

“The rules are stricter and better than what we now have and our main aim is to ensure that those involved in collecting e-waste do it more safely and scientifically,” Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, told PTI.

With nearly 1.7 million tonnes of e-waste reportedly produced in India in 2014 and increasing annually at between 4-5 percent, experts have warned of its dangers to the environment as well as health.

A report by US-based said that lack of effective E-waste disposal mechanisms is hindering market growth. According to a research report, the E-waste market in India is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 26 percent during 2015-2019, higher rate than in China, which until recently alongside the US produced the most E-waste. 

The E-waste management services market in China is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 19.41 percent over the period 2013-2018, said the research report titled E-Waste Market in India 2015-2019, suggesting that the average discard or replacement rates have increased with a corresponding increase in buying power and the need of the hour is to prevent the biological hazards associated with E-waste.

According to environmental specialists, defunct laptops, phone and other electronic goods are usually broken down by hand for precious metals and hacked down manually or crudely burnt. The residue is frequently thrown in rivers, drains and/or disposed in solid waste dumps that over time can contribute to degraded land and water quality.

Read more: Global E-waste to Grow 33% by 2017

The workers who are involved in this task suffer from neurological disorders, skin diseases and cancer. Therefore, we have decided to revamp the rules and adopt the best modern practices,” said the Union Minister adding that over 100 crore mobiles are used every year in the country, out of which 25 crore become e-wastes.

India is currently strengthening its focus on e-waste recycling and disposal. At a recent workshop on e-waste awareness, IT hardware industry body MAIT predicted that the country is expected to generate about 1.5 lakh ton of wastage from the use of electronics every year by 2020 and calls for greater awareness among organizations and people on dealing with e-waste.

“This can only be achieved if bulk consumers of electrical and electronic equipments accept their responsibility to follow the E-waste rules and channelize it through authorized collection centres or recyclers,” Anwar Shirpurwala, Executive Director, MAIT stated at a e-waste awareness workshop last year.

Shirpurwala noted that one of the large issue that industry is facing is getting clearance from various state and central agencies and therefore the body is urging the government to take immediate steps in order to troubleshoot this challenge.

[Read: Waking up to e-waste]

MAIT has also successfully launched several programs on e-waste awareness targeted towards the bulk consumers, informal sector and government institutions.

In fact, the rules governing electronic, or e-waste, have been in place since 2011. The new rules say that producers will have to ensure 30 per cent e-waste collection, based on their projected sales, by 2018 and 70 per cent by 2023, recent reports reveal.

Manufacturers, retailers can adopt new ways such as a deposit refund scheme, an e-waste exchange and they also have to pay for publicity and awareness programmes.

Later this year, when the rules are expected to come into effect, states will have to set up e-waste dismantling and recycling units in industrial park as well as register the workers involved with the e-waste business and finally, take up industrial skill development activities and ensure health and safety of workers.

“Though states are involved, equipment manufacturers will only need to take a single-point clearance from the Central Pollution Control Board to get their collection centres approved,” noted Javadekar.

Experts believe when the law comes to force, it would be for the first time, that the producers will be brought under Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and made responsible for collection of e-waste and its exchange. “The bulk consumers must collect the items and hand them over to authorised recyclers. Various producers can have a separate Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) and ensure collection of e-waste as well as its disposal in an environmentally sound manner.” Javadekar said.

Environment expert Dr. Dieter Mutz, Director, GIZ-IGEP (who’s currently on a sabbatical), noted that E-waste is not only an issue of public sector or private sector, but rather an issue which requires larger attention and both these sectors shall have to support each other for the same.  “We should not look at E-waste from disposal or hygiene point, the concern should rather be on how we as industry can ensure the right resources for product development and be in the business of selling IT products,” he said.

This calls for a liability clause with financial penalties, and an additional responsibility to citizens, government, OEMs and retailers, resellers, to act against environmental degradation and prevent e-waste scientifically.