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E-waste Rules not going to change ground situation
Monday, April 30, 2012
Electronic-waste (E-waste) is a critical issue India is facing today, with rapid technological advancement and growing obsolescence rate of electronics and electrical goods. The country is saddled with huge generation of this toxic waste, estimated to be more than 8 million tonnes. E-waste Management and Handling Rules, notified in May 2011 and which comes into force on May 1st, 2012 is a huge step in this direction. The rules were notified in advance and provided a lead time of one year to all stakeholders to put systems in place for an effective compliance to the Rules.
The E- waste Management and Handling Rules put the onus of e-waste management on Manufacturers or the brands through the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Companies like Samsung, LG, Nokia, HCL, HP, Videocon and many more have to ensure that they have a proper take back system and provide the opportunity to consumers to recycle E-waste. The new Rules also look at the life cycle approach, and restrict the use of hazardous substance in Electronics, though mechanism for effective implementation and monitoring of such substances in EEE has not been clearly articulated and informed.
The big question is how effective are these Rules going to be and is the industry ready to roll out an effective e-waste management plan. Experts feel that in absence of any target or accountability check, the Rules may not be able to change much on the ground.
Consumer awareness, another major responsibility of the producers is critical in improving compliance but in the past one year there has been almost negligible effort in this direction. There is no information on collection centres and collection points across many cities in the country, a major setback in rolling out the E-waste rules from 01 May 2012. Satish Sinha, (Associate Director, Toxics Link) says that the brand may just get away by setting up only symbolic collection system, as the Rules do not specify number of collection points or amount of collection. In a vast country like India, where you need to reach out to urban as well as rural population, their ‘token action’ will change nothing on ground. The brands have not announced any financial mechanism or incentives as well for the consumers to attract them to the new eco-friendly system.
The absence of a detailed guideline to support implementation could also be a bottleneck in implementation of these Rules and requires immediate finalization and adoption by all State Pollution Control Boards. Priti Mahesh, (Sr. Programme Coordinator, Toxics Link) explains that the material is still freely flowing to the informal sector and their operations are running without hindrance. It is unlikely to change much in coming days as there is no monitoring or evaluation mechanism currently in place from the regulators side.
Toxics Link, which has been a key campaigner for the policy and sound management of E-waste, feels that information deficiency could be a major hurdle towards implementation of these Rules and requires to be bridged immediately. In a bid to reach out to the users, including individual and bulk, Toxics Link has released awareness material on the eve of E-waste rules coming into force (See: E-Waste Flyer Front, E-Waste Flyer Back). The associated campaign aims to inform the users of their responsibility and also guide them to become change makers.
Toxics Link, an initiative of the Just Environment Charitable Trust, is one of the leading environmental NGO in India. The organization has been working on the issues of waste and toxics for more than 15 years and has unique expertise in the areas of hazardous, medical and municipal wastes and toxics in general; as also specific issues such as International waste trade, besides emerging issues of heavy metal, food safety, POPs and E-waste.
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