Draft e-waste Rules

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    • Recently proposed framework by the Centre for regulating e-waste in India has upset a key link of India’s electronic waste collection system and threatens the livelihood of thousands of people.

    E-Waste Management Rules:

    • The government passed the first law on e-waste management in 2011, based on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
      • EPR put the onus on the producer for the management of the final stages of the life of its product, in an eco-friendly way, by creating certain norms in tandem with state pollution control boards. 
      • However, it did not set collection targets.
    • E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016, further strengthened the existing rules. 
      • The rule strengthened the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which is the global best practice to ensure the take-back of the end-of-life products
      • A new arrangement entitled, ‘Producer Responsibility Organisation’ (PRO) was introduced to strengthen EPR further. 
        • PRO is authorised or financed collectively or individually by producers, to share the responsibility for collection and channelisation of e-waste generated from the ‘end-of-life’ products to ensure environmentally sound management of such e-waste.
      • Manufacturers were mandated to take back their sold products with recommended mechanisms.

    More about the draft Rules:

    • Extended Producer Responsibility Certificates:
      • Draft rules aim to incentivise registered electronic waste recyclers by introducing EPR, or Extended Producer Responsibility certificates (which was not part of 2016 Rules)
      • Recyclers on processing a certain quantity of waste would be given a certificate verifying this number by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). 
      • Electronics goods companies can buy these certificates online from the CPCB to meet their annual targets. 
      • These certificates certify the quantity of e-waste collected and recycled in a particular year by a company and an organisation may sell surplus quantities to another company to help it meet its obligations.
      • Recyclers can also directly contract with a company to recycle a certain quantity of waste and generate certificates that can be accessed from the CPCB.
    • E-waste exchange facilities:
      • The EPR requires producers to set up e-waste exchange facilities to facilitate collection and recycling, and assign specific responsibility to bulk consumers of electronic products for safe disposal. 
      • Role of state governments:
        • The State governments have been entrusted with the responsibility of earmarking industrial space for e-waste dismantling and recycling facilities, undertaking industrial skill development and establishing measures for protecting the health and safety of workers engaged in the dismantling and recycling facilities for e-waste.
    • Electronic goods:
      • wide range of electronic goods, including laptops, landline and mobile phones, cameras, recorders, music systems, microwaves, refrigerators and medical equipment have been specified in the notification.
    • Target oriented:
      • Consumer goods companies and makers of electronics goods have to ensure at least 60% of their electronic waste is collected and recycled by 2023 with targets to increase them to 70% and 80% in 2024 and 2025 respectively, according to a draft notification.
    • Challenges:
      • Verifying the actual quantity recycled is next to impossible because the data like, how many electronic goods were sold in a particular year and how much e-waste is generated and how much recycled, is not available in the public domain.

    Challenges/ Impacts of e-waste 

    • Informal sector
      • Electronic waste, or electronic goods that are past their productive life and old parts, is largely handled by India’s vast informal sector.
    • Chemical dismantling units: 
      • Spent goods are dismantled and viable working parts refurbished, with the rest making their way into chemical dismantling units.
    • Child labour
      • Many of these units are run out of unregulated sweatshops that employ child labour and hazardous extraction techniques. 
    • Environmental:
      • Some major effects of e-waste on the environment include groundwater pollution, acidification of soil and contamination of groundwater, and air pollution due to the burning of plastic and other remnants. 
      • According to Assocham, unless we have effective implementation of the rule, the country would end up creating many informal processing hubs such as those in Moradabad and Seelampur, where soil, water and air are polluted to a beyond-repairable level.
    • Health:
      • Some of the major health effects include serious illnesses such as lung cancer, respiratory problems, bronchitis, brain damages, etc, due to inhalation of toxic fumes, exposure to heavy metals and alike.
    • Recycling potential:
      • The recycling potential of our country is poor. 
      • More than 90 per cent of our E-waste is handled by the informal sector/unorganised sector that uses non-scientific and dangerous methods to extract the resource from E-waste.
      • This poses severe threats to human (including children’s) lives.

    Reasons behind High E-Waste Generation and Less Recycling

    • Higher consumption rate of electronics:
      • India is among the world’s largest consumer of mobile phones.
      • Some 54-113 million mobile phones, weighing 10-20 tonnes, are lying in drawers and other storage spaces.
    • Shorter product life cycles:
      • It was found that the previous electronic gadgets were obsolete as the new upgrades and new models were launched in the market.
    • Limited repair options:
      • Many manufacturers don’t allow repair and reuse facilities.
      • The Environmental Protection Agency of the USA estimates that more than 151 million phones a year- approximately 416,000 a day- are trashed and end up incinerated or landfilled.
    • Hesitancy and Unawareness among Consumers:
      • Most consumers are still unaware of how to dispose of their e-waste. 
      • Most Indians end up selling their e-waste to the informal sector.

    Way Ahead

    • Effective awareness would be the right step for all stakeholders. 
      • As per the 2016 rules, manufacturers have been mandated to create awareness in the country.
    • Strict implementation of the rule, training for requisite skill sets and providing affordable technology to the informal sector could be a game-changer. 
    • Upgradation of the informal sector to reach environmentally acceptable operations is presently missing and is not part of the rule.

    What is Electronic Waste (E-Waste)?

    • Electronic-Waste is the term used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded electronic appliances
    • E-waste is categorised into 21 types under two broad categories: 
      • Information technology and communication equipment.
      • Consumer electrical and electronics. 
    • Electronic waste (E-waste) is the fastest-growing stream of waste. 
    • The CPCB said that in 2019-20, 1 million tons of e-waste was generated, 22% of which was “collected, dismantled, recycled”. 
    • The Global e-Waste Monitor reports that nearly 3 million tons of electronic waste was generated in India, which is thrice the Centre’s estimates. 

    International E-Waste Day (IEWD)

    • Every year 14th October is celebrated as International E-Waste Day.
    • The day was initiated in 2018 by the WEEE Forum.
      • WEEE stands for waste electronic and electrical equipment.
      • It is a Brussels-based non-profit association of e-waste collection schemes.
    • Theme:  
      • “Consumers are the key to the Circular Economy” 
    • Aim: 
      • To promote the correct disposal of e-waste throughout the world by increasing re-use, recovery and recycling rates. 

    E-waste Awareness Programme

    • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, MeitY, has initiated an E-waste Awareness programme under Digital India initiatives, along with industry associations from 2015. 
    • It aims to create awareness among the public about the hazards of e-waste recycling by the unorganised sector and to educate them about alternate methods of disposing of their e-waste.
    • The programme stresses the need for adopting environmentally friendly e-waste recycling practices
    • The general public is also encouraged to participate in ‘Swachh Digital Bharat’, by giving their e-waste to authorised recyclers only.
    • The programme has adopted the best practices for e-waste recycling available globally so that this sector could generate jobs as well as viable business prospects for locals. 

    Source: TH