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EPR to aid e-waste: Is India ready?


12 July 2010

Aditi Guha

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As the e-waste problem soars high in India, a new draft that makes a producer of electrical and electronic equipment responsible for the collection and appropriate disposal of e-waste is underway. Expert fear that the EPR concept may pose greater challenges since the larger cause of environment is missing.

It’s time we do not bank totally on producers. Rather, the government should help in setting up collection and disposal facilities for e waste. B K Soni, chairman, Eco Recycling Ltd, discusses this and more with ET bureau.

“If e waste were not hazardous, it would still be a nuisance but it would no longer be deadly & destructive to human health & viable ecosystems. If the manufacturing was done cleanly without hazardous inputs & processes, it would be possible to overcome the worst of the high-tech environmental nightmare” — Jim Puckett in Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia, published by the Basel Action Network.

The above words speak volumes on e-waste and how the problem of managing such waste could be detrimental to the global eco system. Like many agencies and countries around the world, there is a growing consciousness on the issue in India.

The government has drafted new rules that make a producer of electrical and electronic equipment responsible for the collection and appropriate disposal of e-waste generated at the end of life of its products.

The draft called E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2010 was made public on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in May and was considered necessary for ‘public interest’.

Side by side with these rules, the government has also decided to fund establishment of e-waste treatment facility as part of its waste management programme for 140 highly contaminated sites in the country.

However, the two decisions do not seem to be converging at any point though both revolve round e-waste.

hile the financial package stands to be a move merely on paper with no amount of commitment attached to it, both the decisions should have been clubbed together and made public for better tackling of the issue.

Also, the fact that the draft rules are aimed at ‘the interest of the public’ only, points to the fact that animals and plants, which stand to suffer from hazardous materials in e wastes, have not been included. Such a rule seems to have neglected the environmental problems at a larger scale.

On whether the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) concept (stated in Chapter II, responsibilities of producers, point number 3), will be an effective tool to meet the objectives remains to be ascertained. In reality, this seems to be a move in keeping with the EPR rules in the EU or the US.

In India, EPR could stand for ‘Environment Protection Ruled out’ as the larger cause of environment is missing. This seems an impractical move on behalf of the government. If e wastes are known to have several recoverable material then why is it termed as ‘waste’?

Waste in context to electronic devices have seen the process of change in the form of commodity to product and product to commodity. If this be the case, then there seems to be no ‘waste’.

It seems to be a move with vested interests whereby what can be reused is also termed as waste.

The draft rules suggest registration of refurbishers, dealers and other intermediaries. Is it in reality for the Pollution Control Board or other nodal agencies to ‘regulate’ so many entities?

In drafting this rule, the main point of logistics has been ruled out. If the chain begins at the manufacturer’s level and moves on to the dealer and then to the consumer, one main aspect of ‘intermediaries’ such as the transporter who works for the dealer or the repairing company that the dealer has access to, are also part of the process before recycling happens.

These ‘support services’ have no direct link to the producer while the rules say that all such support services also need to be registered. The intention of the government seems defocused here.

For effective implementation of rules, it is imperative to register only the producers and recyclers. As 90% of the recycling process gets over at the dismantling level, then where is the need of having a separate set of dismantlers and recyclers?

As material flow is not so high, not everybody needs to be involved in 100% recycling. Rather, 10% can be outsourced. Question also arises if e waste is already part of the Hazardous Waste Rules of 2008, then where was the need to draft new set of rules?

While there’s no significant difference in the two, the present set of rules seem much more diluted in nature and is largely aimed at protecting the interests of brand manufacturers.

E waste being hazardous, government should be focusing more on inventory movement rather than focus on commercial transactions.

The government should support the recycler to reach a level of self sustainability. If rules need to be implemented what is needed is creating of awareness and building on the existing facilities. Government role should end at the breakeven point and stretch no further.

It could help management of e waste through other proactive means such as concessional loans, duty free imports of machinery or private-public equity support. One big support that the govt can extend is to give recyclers the inventory of e waste it has rather than auctioning and giving the same to kabadis. One-fourth of the country’s e waste production is in govt departments. This could well be given to recyclers.

An enhanced number of recyclers are sure to tackle better the problem of e waste. Companies such as Eco Recycling Ltd have kept in mind environment issues while calling for an end to greediness and selfish motives.

It is time for a fresh call. One of the major challenges before the recycler needs to be addressed immediately. Selling of e waste to kabadis for highest gains should be stopped.

The right time for EPR has not yet come to India. It’s better not to bank completely on producers. Rather the govt should help in setting up collection and disposal facilities.

What remains to be seen is the intention of the government and the involved parties to aid e waste management in the best possible manner.

Eco Recycling Limited (Ecoreco)

Ecoreco provides full spectrum of activities covered under e waste management — right from collection from the door steps of the manufacturers/customers, segregation of remarketable components/equipment, dismantling of end of life equipment, shredding to reduce sizes and ultimate disposal of hazardous substances with the help of designated facility to avoid any negative impact on the environment and ecology and to meet the requirement prescribed by the MOEF/CPCB for the disposal of Hazardous Waste Management.

The company has developed the first-of-its-kind-in-India “Recycling on Wheels” facility for safe & secured destruction of data devices containing confidential & personal information at the client premises itself.

Ecoreco is now ready to commercialise yet another innovation of extraction of precious metals out of the printed circuit boards & other complicated components.

On implementation of this integrated facility, the printed circuit boards and other components which are being presently exported to Europe, will stay in India. Ecoreco invites one and all to become a member of Green Enterprise. Just log on to www.ecoreco.com and do your bit!

(The auhor B K Soni is chairman of Eco Recycling Ltd)

 
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