The new rules called the e-waste (management and handling) Rules, 2011 released by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, effective from May 2011, aims at improving the safe management of electrical and electronic wastes. It lays down the responsibilities and procedures for key players including manufacturers, waste collection centers, consumer or bulk consumers, dismantler, waste handlers, recyclers and the authorities.
The rules specify that every producer of equipment listed in schedule 1 – information and telecommunications equipment and consumer electrical and electronics – ensures that their products do not contain lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls or polybrominateddiphenyl ethers above a specified threshold. The threshold for cadmium is 0.01% by weight; for all other substances, the threshold is 0.1% by weight. These rules are applicable on products imported into India. It government has stipulated a period of two years for producers to achieve these levels.
This calls for companies to ensure that their take back policies are efficient, appropriate collection centers are set up and there is targeted marketing to the consumers for improving awareness.The Rules are applicable to all producers (i.e. electronics producing companies), Bulk consumers (companies registered under Companies Act,multinational companies, Government Institutions) and consumers (i.e. individual users). Individual consumers will have to return their e-waste to collection centres/recyclers. Records maintained on e-waste disposal will be scrutinized by State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) or Pollution Control Committee if needed.
The industry feels that imposing responsibility only on the Producers is not the sole solution to solve the e-waste problem. Availability of appropriate technology is clearly essential as well for ensuring the success of the Rules. There are currently only a handful of end to end recycling solution providers in India and this can turn out to be a challenge in implementation.
Stressing on the need for technology, Mahesh Bhalla, Executive Director & General Manager, Consumer & SMB, Dell India, says “Technology for long has been an enabler of green practices within companies. The optimum use of technology can go a long way in ensuring not just environment-friendly products, but also end-to-end processes in the manner in which an organization conducts its business operations like e-waste recycling.”
There is need for consumer inclusion and stakeholder engagement and the e-waste Rules need to be stronger to ensure all-round implementation. However, e-waste recycling is a joint responsibility of all the stakeholders involved and cannot be achieved solely by relying on producer responsibility. Some Indian companies have started taking positive strides in this direction.
Dell was the first PC Company to offer free consumer recycling globally and began offering this to Indian consumers in 2006 to facilitate responsible product retirement. A free of charge pick up is scheduled based on a request from their consumers irrespective of the location within India for any Dell branded product at any time, and free recycling for other branded products with purchase of new Dell equipment.
Another company actively working on e-waste collection is Nokia which started its e-waste recycling campaign in 2008. Pranshu Singhal, Head- Sustainability for Nokia India says, “In 2011 alone, we have collected over 10 lakh units of phones and accessories. Till date we have collected over 80 tonnes of phones and accessories for recycling, and this number is growing every day.”
Similarly companies like HCL have created an online process for e-waste recycling request registration, where customers (both individual and corporate) can register their requests for disposal of their e-waste. They are in the process of increasing the number of collection points in co-ordination with the recyclers though there seem to be no publicly available e-waste take back targets for the company.
However, other than these big giants and a few others, a vast majority of the companies do not even have the basic e-waste collection infrastructure in place. While some companies have started moving forward in this direction, there is still a lot of ground to cover in order to ensure meaningful adoption of these Rules.
Compiled from various sources