The Good and the Gaps of the E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016

In March 2016, The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change notified the E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016 to be in-effect from 1st October 2016. They have strung a lot of right chords in putting together a holistic policy by bringing together all the stakeholders like the Central and State Pollution Control Boards, consumers, dismantlers, recyclers with clearly defined responsibilities.

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The 2011 policy also mentioned about Extended Producer Responsibility, but without any fixed targets. There was not much action taken by producers. The current policy explicitly lays down the responsibilities of the Producers of Electrical and Electronic goods with stipulated targets for take back starting from 30% in the first year and increasing to 70% by the seventh year. The average lifespan of the products have also been listed down clearly for ease of calculation of targets based on sale data, For example a phone has an average lifespan of 5 years, refrigerator 10 years and so on as defined in the guidelines.

Consequence for Non-Compliance

We Indians have a habit of not following rules if there are no penalties associated with them. We won’t follow traffic rules if there are no policemen around watching us. On some occasions, even when the policemen are there, we tend to break signals in the hope that the policemen won’t pay attention to us or won’t be fast enough to get hold of us.

The Policy strongly states that without getting EPR Authorization by submitting a detailed plan including mechanism of pan India collection, awareness plans as well as the budget allocated for EPR, Producers will not be allowed to place products in the market. The last date for submission was 31st December 2016.

Producers not complying to the policy would be termed as ‘causing damage to the environment’ and liable to be penalized under the Environment Protection Act, 1986. A modified EPA with stricter enforcement and penalization section is being reviewed by the parliament.

Single Point Clearance

Unlike the 2011 rules where the Producers were required to apply for permission to each State Pollution Control Board, the 2016 policy makes the process simpler as producers are required to get only single point clearance from CPCB for EPR Authorization.

Inclusion of CFLs

CFLs and other mercury containing lamps which are a huge toxic burden for our planet have now been included under Schedule I of the policy. The producers of CFLs now have to put in place systems for collection of end-of-life lamps and channeling to recyclers or TSDFs.

Challenges

Tracking of the number and types of new electrical and electronic products in the market is extremely hard due to the rapid pace of growth. As of now the policy does not include all WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic) items under the Schedule I. The idea is to gradually include all other items like water heaters, ironing machines, microwave ovens and other household electronics including toys in a gradual manner.

Even the refurbishers selling second hand goods in the market now need to submit the EPR Plan and are responsible for taking back products after its end of life. Most of them would fall under micro enterprises and be exempted from the policy. KSPCB sources tell us there is not a single authorized Refurbisher registered with them.

Ensuring implementation from the large producers is also going to be a herculean task. The CPCB with its limited resources would ideally look for scape goats in some larger producers to create an example for other producers to fall in line.

Way Forward

Today, the USA does not have a federal policy for E-Waste but in India we have a progressive policy in place. Many countries have struggled with this in the past. It is now up to the producers as well the other stakeholders to ensure in its successful implementation. Though there has been some pushback from the Industry in accepting the policy in its current form, the Delhi HC refused to stay the E-Waste rules and asked the producers to comply.

Let us hope for the best. Only time will tell how successful we are in the implementation of this progressive policy.

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