Recently, Ministry of Environment has released the Draft E-waste Management Rules, 2022, for public comments.
Electronic waste: or e-waste is generated when electronic and electrical equipment become unfit for their originally intended use or have crossed the expiry date.
- Examples: Computers, servers, mainframes, monitors, compact discs (CDs), printers etc.
- According to a report released at the World Economic Forum 2018, India ranks 177 amongst 180 countries and is amongst the bottom five countries on the Environmental Performance Index 2018.
- Also, India is ranked fifth in the world amongst top e-waste producing countries after the USA, China, Japan, and Germany.
- India recycles less than 2 per cent of the total e-waste it produces annually formally.
- India generates more than two million tonnes of e-waste annually, and also imports huge amounts of e-waste from other countries around the world.
- Dumping in open dumpsites is a common sight which gives rise to issues such as groundwater contamination, poor health, and more.
E waste Management Rules 2022: Key points
- The draft rules state that producers of e-goods have to ensure that at least 60% of their produced e-waste is recycled by 2023.
- Introduction of a Steering Committee to oversee the “overall implementation, monitoring, and supervision” of the regulations.
- The rules propose a) expanding the definition of e-waste, b) more clearly specifying the penalties for violation of rules, c) introducing an environmental compensation fund based on the ‘polluter pays’ principle, and d) recognising the informal waste workers.
What are the challenges associated with the draft E-waste rules?
- First, large-scale recycling of e-waste is still in its infancy in India. Most of the recycling of valuable material is carried out within the informal sector using inefficient and unsafe technologies. Considering this, the target to recycle 60% of the e-waste generated in 2022-23 appears too optimistic.
- Second, the government has to focus on existing formal and informal players if it wants to create better recycling facilities. But the draft rules are silent on regulating registered collectors, dismantlers, and producer responsibility organisations.
- Third, the informal sector accounts for a vast majority of e-waste processed in India. Most e-waste policy debates have centred around the integration of the informal sector into the formal systems.
But the proposed regulations place the responsibility of such integration on the State governments without specifying what the incentives are for them to do this.
Fourth, based on European experience, the regulators face more difficulties in monitoring and enforcing recycling targets than the collection targets. But the present draft is silent on whether the rules will apply to the aggregate weight of e-waste or to every component of an e-product
- Fifth, the Steering Committee mentioned in the draft lacks representation in the Committee. For instance, there is no representation from science/academia and civil society organisations.
Hence, the core changes it proposes within the EPR framework require careful deliberation with all the relevant stakeholders before the Rules are finalised.
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