E-waste Rules: A Success Story?

DQI Bureau
New Update

Recently, the draft of href="">E-waste

(Management and Handling) Rules, 2010 was made public and put in

the public domain as a part of the government process of rule making.

These shall remain in the pubic domain with the view of receiving

comments from the public and stakeholders for a period of two months.

The stage has now been set rolling for the public to express their

opinion but what do some of the learned people on the matter have to

say about the rules. On this occasion, we try to gather the viewpoint

of Abhishek Pratap, Campaigner, Greenpeace India, who says, Greenpeace

welcomes the notification of e-waste rule. This is a progressive and

landmark environment legislation in India. India is the first

developing country who made such law for management of e-waste which

puts responsibility and liability on the electronic manufacturers for

environmentally safe disposal and recycling of discarded electronic


Seconding his views, Vinnie Mehta, Executive Director, MAIT, said, The
recently announced new set of rules for environmentally sound

management of e-waste is the need of the hour. Currently, an estimated

three lakh eighty thousand metric tonnes of e-waste is generated

annually in India.

Initial steps

Recollecting the initial stages, he recollects that since the last
three years Greenpeace has been working on the legal framework for

e-waste management in India. The process for law making started in

April-2008, when Greenpeace called for a meeting of all major

electronic manufacturers (international and Indians) in Banaglore. In

that meeting all major electronic brands along with other stakeholders

agreed on an e-waste law for ensuring level playing field in the sector

for href="">green

electronic production and take-back and recycling of end of the life

electronic products.

After that Greenpeace along with MAIT, GTZ and Toxicslink started
framing the e-waste rule based on Individual Producer Responsibility

(IPR) principle. Wide range of consultations were carried across the

country to seek opinion and suggestions of all stakeholders. Finally,

the draft e-waste rule (a joint recommendation of industry and civil

society) was submitted to the government in June last year. The

government accepted this draft rule on a positive note and formed an

expert committee to review the draft. The expert committee came out

with their recommendations and finally the government notified E-waste

Rules on 28th April this year. The notified e-waste rule is largely

based on the recommendations given by Greenpeace, MAIT, GTZ and


E-waste treatment

E-waste can be described as a post-consumer kind of waste, which
requires special regulation for its collection, transportation,

treatment and disposal because its characteristics are different from

other wastes like factory or manufacturing wastes. Pratap remarks,

Finally, this legislation will drive for green electronic product

manufacturing as there is a clear clause in the rule for reduction of

hazardous substances like lead, mercury and polyvinyl chloride in

electronic products. However, there is also some legal ambiguity in the

rule on producer responsibility which needs to be cleared out before

the final notification for implementation.

Finer nuances

The ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) has proposed in the
draft that href="">manufacturers

and dealers of electrical and electronic products be made

accountable for the end-of-life disposal of the goods once they

become obsolete or are ready to be recycled. Pratap feels that the

financial responsibility of every manufacturer for meeting the cost of

treatment and disposal of e-waste generated from their end of the life

product is not clear.

He further explains, Whether the manufacturers at individual level or
at collective level, are responsible for meeting this cost. We believe

that every manufacturer should be held individually responsible for

managing their own end of the life products because this will enable

and enable reduction of hazardous chemicals in products and lead to

green products in the market. However, the present rule provides

options to manufacturers of either choosing between individual or

collective scheme for meeting this responsibility. But this will not be

good for either the industry or consumers as the level of toxicity in

the products will not reduce and so, the impact of e-waste will

continue on the environment and public health.

Manufacturers will not only be responsible to set up collection centres
to oversee the process, but will also have to ensure that the hazardous

products are handled by registered dismantlers or href="">recyclers

to control possible damage to the environment and human health.

Apart from that the environment ministry has also broadened the

definition of e-waste to include items like remote controlled toys,

gaming consoles, household appliances and smoke detectors besides

computers, television sets, fax machines, mobile phones and medical


Grabbing the pulse

What is the road ahead? What is the response that it will receive from
the industry? Will this law prove to be a success and how can its

success be ensured? All these questions encircle along with the process

being set in motion for the e-waste rules. The draft policy on e-waste

focuses on bulk consumers. banks, MNCs, and other big companies which

will now have to deposit e-waste at authorised collection centres.

While environmental agencies have hailed the move as a step in the

right direction, activists feel that  the policy should be

notified in its entirety.

This is first time that the responsibilities and liabilities of all in
the value chain has been defined in any environmental regulation and it

will prove helpful in good implementation of the rule. If there are

clear liabilities on everybody including manufactures and consumers,

there is no point that it will not prove to be successful. However,

there is a need of increased awareness at the consumer level so that

discarded electronic/electrical products reach the collection points.

In order to create awareness among the consumers an awareness campaign

must be led by manufacturer's.

Talking on the success of the policy, Pratap feels, We expect that
this rule without any legal ambiguity on href="">producer

responsibility will set a new trend of waste management in the

country and will create a precedent that the industry can be held

accountable in clear sense for any adverse impact of their business on

environment. Further, it will also create new production processes

which will not be based on use of hazardous/toxic chemicals.

There is one more angle of concern called RoHS too. RoHS has been
mentioned in the rule and if it is clearly implemented it will

significantly reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in the

electronic/electrical products. This will in turn lead to more and more

green products entering the market. Airing his views on this aspect,

Pratap says that there is also some legal ambiguity. He futher adds,

The government has chosen Indian standards rather than EU standards,

which is considered as a global standard for electronic product

manufacturing. Failure to adhere to EU standards will prove detrimental

for the growth of Indian companies as they won't be able to sell their

products in the European market based on Indian standards and Indian

companies (for sake any companies) can't afford follow two lines of

production - one for the Indian market and another for the European

market. There is no need of reinventing the wheel as far as standard

for use of hazardous chemicals are concerned.

Even if the MoEFs proposals become the law, environmentalists say that
the governments task wont be easy in the face of stiff resistance

from the industry. Officials admitted that the efficacy of the

proposals will depend on a proactive approach from the industry.

Extended producer responsibility is yet to become a reality in India.

So far very few companies are actively involved in collecting e-waste

from their consumers. Apart from this even the dealers will also have

to collect e-waste by providing consumers with a bin or a demarcated

area to deposit used goods.

Recycler's angle

This rule will immensely help recyclers to get materials as now there
is clear responsibility fixed on everybody including bulk and

individual consumers for giving the discarded products only to

authorised channels of collection. So, in the future a lot more waste

will find its way to authorised collection channels and from there to

authorised recyclers.

However, at the same time authorised recyclers also need to think of
innovative business models to ensure that consumers engage in the

process of waste disposal through them. They need to incentivise

consumers to use authorised channels for disposal. Further, these

authorised recyclers need to identify what level of value addition they

are making in e-waste management by improving their waste treatment

facility. Currently, they are competing with the informal sector for

the same waste and not looking at the other areas where they can

increase collection and also how they can mainstream informal sector

with them for collection and disposal of waste. Above all, this

reflects the need for authorised recyclers to think beyond existing

practices to obtain raw material.

Road ahead

The rule is just for setting direction and broader principle for
effective e-waste management. After the notification of

 rule for implementation, new guidelines for e-waste should be
prepared which will give a finer direction and tool to implement this

rule in the right spirit. Also there is a need to fix a target for

e-waste collection by every manufacturer based on their sale of the

products for every year, opines Pratap.

On a final note, Pratap further says, There is one thing missing in
the E-waste Rules namely our recommendation that all annual returns

should be electronically filed in order to enable reduction of

cumbersome process of paper filling and also reduce usage of paper.

However, the government will still stick to the age-old practice of

paper filling, which needs to change as this as is related to new age

sector like the electronic industry.