Rule of dump: Discard e-waste the right way [DNA : Daily News & Analysis (India)]
(DNA : Daily News & Analysis (India) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The new rules on e-waste that have come into effect from May 1 can be seen as the first step towards reducing pollution of the information era. The E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rule, 2011 were notified on May 30, 2011 by the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), which set May 1, 2012 as the date for implementation.
What makes the notification far-reaching with its 'extended producer responsibility' principle is that it puts the onus on companies which would now be responsible for the lifecycle of an electronic product - right from its design to disposal. It's not, however, that other stakeholders can wash their hands off. While the rule clearly makes companies responsible for the collection and recycling of e-waste, each and every stakeholder (including consumers) has a role to play in facilitating the implementation of same. In other words, common people are supposed to hand over their e-waste to producers or authorised collection centres or recyclers. The rule clearly bars consumers from simply dumping the products in garbage bins or giving them away to kabadiwalas. It is up to electronics manufacturers to rope in these kabadiwala by integrating them into the collection process. But, how this is going to work on the ground is not clear yet.
"The producer has to take the larger responsibility in terms of education, collection and on top of that making products safer for use and recycling. The rule will work as an incentive for the producers as they will move towards manufacturing green or clean products in order to reduce their recycling cost," argues Abhishek Pratap Singh of environmental NGO Greenpeace. The new rules, in fact, draw heavily from the recommendations of a collaborative effort between Greenpeace, MAIT, GIZ and Toxicslink. Many electronics companies too had worked with the NGOs on this.
Electronic scrape (i.e. e-waste) is difficult to handle since these cannot either be disposed of or recycled. The campaign, therefore, worked on pushing electronic manufacturers to accept responsibility of the entire lifecycle of their products, including the end of life stage. Manufacturers can do this by phasing out toxic chemicals from their products at the design stage itself. This makes recycling and treatment of e-waste safer and easier.
It is not that the rule is perfect yet. It fails to provide safeguards to ensure the ban of import and export of electronic wastes. There is also scope for improvement by making producers financially liable for the e-wastes generated by their products, based on their toxicity. As of now, six hazardous chemicals - lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers have been banned in electronic and electrical equipment listed in Schedule I of the rule.
Besides long being a destination for the dumping of e-waste from developed countries, India is also home to a rapidly growing domestic electronics industry. In 2007, India produced about 380,000 tonnes of e-waste. This was what prompted environmental groups to work on the issue of toxic waste generated by the electronics industry.
It is not always that industry cooperates with green activists, but on this front many organisations have willingly. HCL and Wipro have already phased out the worst hazardous substances from their products. Sooner than later, others will follow suit.
What companies will need to do
* Collection of e-waste generated during manufacturing of an equipment and channeling them for recycling or disposal
* Setting up collection centres or take-back systems (of the products) either individually or collectively
* Creating awareness through public awareness publications, advertisements, posters or by any other means of communication about e-waste.
* Instruction to handle equipment after use with dos and don'ts must be given to the recycler
* Affixing visible, legible symbol about the product that can be recycled
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