New e-waste rules and India’s e-waste challenge – Explained, pointwise

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Ministry of Environment and Forests has recently notified a new set of e-waste rules. The rules will replace the previous E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 and the rules will come into force from April 01, 2023. Despite many positives, many experts are also cautioning against the new e-waste rules due to India’s increased e-waste generation. 

What is E-waste?

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a term for electronic products that have become unwanted, obsolete, and have reached the end of their useful life. It refers to all items of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of re-use.

Read more: Government initiatives to curb e-waste and health impacts of e-waste

About India’s e-waste generation

New e-waste rules
Source: Lok Sabha
  • India ranks 3rd in terms of producer of e-waste after China and the United States of America.  
  • Only 22.7 per cent of the total e-waste generated in 2019-20 in India was collected, dismantled, and recycled or disposed off.  
  • 95% of e-waste in India is recycled by the informal sector. 
  • The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and KPMG joint study on Electronic Waste Management in India released on 2017 identified that computer equipment accounts for almost 70 % of e-waste, followed by phones (12%), electrical equipment (8 %), and medical equipment (7 %) with remaining from household e-waste. 
  • Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu, and Haryana are among the States that have a bigger capacity to dismantle and recycle e-waste. 
  • Maharashtra has the highest number (116) of authorised dismantlers and recyclers. 

What are the New e-waste rules-2022?

Parameter2016 rules2022 rules
ScopeDealer, consumer, bulk consumer and collection centres were covered. It has been restricted to manufacturers, producers, refurbishers, dismantlers and recyclers of e-waste (MPRDR) 
Definition of the term e-waste Restricted definitionThe definition of term e-waste has been widened to include solar photovoltaic modules or panels or cells. 
Schedule 1 Only 21 EEE have been under the EPR regime. 106 EEE have been included. 
EPR mechanism It focused more on the producers responsibility to collect back the e-waste and provided collection targets.It provides annual e-waste recycling targets to the producers.
Registration requirementIt mandates MPRRto obtain authorization from the concerned State Pollution Control Board, MPRR of e-waste has to obtain registration on the portal (‘Portal’) to be developed by Central Pollution Control Board (‘CPCB’).  

New additions to the 2022 e-waste rules:

EPR recycling certificateProducers can purchase online EPR recycling certificates from registered recyclers to fulfilling their recycling target. Suchrecycling certificate issued by CPCB will be valid for two years. 

Refurbishing certificate and deferred liability: The concept of deferred liability has also been incorporated. Producers can purchase refurbishing certificates from refurbishers to defer their EPR vis-à-vis the corresponding quantity of e-waste in a particular year.

Incorporation of penal provisions and widened scope: The rules expressly introduced provisions related to environmental compensation and prosecution under section 15 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (‘EPA’).  

Further, environmental compensation can also be imposed on an entity which aids or abets the violation of the 2022 Rules.

Must read: Centre issues e-waste management rules

What is the need for the New e-waste rules? 

New e-waste rules

To address the “Tsunami” of e-waste: A report titled Waste-Wise Cities: Best Practices in Municipal Solid Waste Management by NITI Aayog and Centre for Science and Environment, states that the use of electrical and electronic equipment has witnessed explosive growth and so is e-waste. The UN has termed this phenomenon a tsunami” of e-waste.

Building a circular economy: According to the UN report, lowering the amount of electronics entering the waste stream and improving end-of-life handling are essential for building a more circular economy. 

Recycling rare metals: India doesn’t have a lot of valuable mineral resources, but untreated e-waste ends up in landfills. By making sure that recycling rules are followed correctly, the new rules will help increase availability of rare metals. For instance, recycling can increase the availability of cobalt, which is in great demand for laptop, smart phone and electric car batteries. 

Employment generation: By adopting the best practices for e-waste recycling India can generate jobs as well as viable business prospects for locals. 

To achieve SDG: A better management of e-waste will contribute to the achievement of several goals of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.  

What are the advantages of the rules 2022 in handling India’s e-waste? 

Restricted the use of hazardous substances: Every producer of EEE and their components have to ensure that their products do not contain lead, mercury and other hazardous substances beyond the maximum prescribed concentration. 

Annual E-Waste Recycling targets: Producers of notified EEE, have been given annual E-Waste Recycling targets based on the generation from the previously sold EEE or based on sales of EEE as the case may be.

Standardising the e-waste value chain through a common digital ‘portal’: It may ensure transparency which is crucial to reduce the frequency of paper trading or false trail’, i.e., a practice of falsely revealing 100% collection on paper while collecting and/or weighing ‘scrap’ to meet targets. 

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Framework: If a product does not comply with the e-waste management rules, the manufacturer will have to withdraw all samples from the market. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer to collect e-waste generated during manufacture and to ensure its recycling or disposal.  Environmental compensation is to be provided by companies that don’t meet their target. 

Responsible state government: The State governments have been given the job of setting aside industrial space for e-waste disassembly and recycling facilities, developing industrial skills, and coming up with ways to protect the health and safety of workers at e-waste disassembly and recycling facilities. 

What are the challenges associated with new e-waste rules-2022? 

Unorganized sector left behind: The informal sector draws no acknowledgement in the new guidelines which could be on account of its ‘illegality’.  

Not ensuring ‘recovery tangent’: The rules briefly talk about “component recovery” and “residual disposal,” which are two important steps in “efficient” e-waste recycling, but they don’t make it clear what needs to be done to make sure the “recovery tangent” happens. 

Not ensure double verification: Rules do away with ‘Producer Responsibility Organisation’ (PRO) and dismantlers and vest all the responsibility of recycling with authorised recyclers. PROs acted as an intermediary between producers and formal recyclers by bidding for contracts from producers and arranging for certified and authorised recycling.

Fresh challenges might emerge as companies are no longer required to engage with PROs and dismantlers, who partially ensured double verification in terms of quantity and quality of recycling.  

Read more: About the Draft E-waste Management Rules, 2022: Right intent, confusing content

What should be done to reduce India’s e-waste? 

Move towards Circular economy: There is an urgent need to move from a Linear & Reuse economy to a Circular economy. The linear economy focuses on profitability, irrespective of the product life cycle, whereas the Circular economy targets sustainability. 

Market-based incentives: This will promote both demand and supply-side variables to voluntarily adopt e-waste recycling.  

Increase government support: The government should encourage new entrepreneurs by providing the necessary financial support and technological guidance. 

Integration of the informal sector into a transparent recycling system: It is crucial for better control of environmental and human health impacts. 

Multi-stakeholder consultation: While producers are responsible for e-waste management (EPR), consumers, retailers, state governments, municipalities, NGOs, CSOs, Self-Help Groups (SHGs), local collection agencies and others need to play an appropriate role in collection, facilitation, and creation of infrastructure to make e-waste management a success.  

Digitally connecting stakeholders: It will open opportunities for industry collaborations and participation by stakeholders will result in implementing robust waste segregation collection disposal best practices. 

Creating awareness: Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Self-Help Groups (SHGs) need to be provided with funding and incentives to create information campaigns, capacity building, and awareness among key stakeholders including end consumers by educating them on their role in e-waste management. 

Providing the right information: In order to ensure the efficient implementation of the law, stakeholders must have the right information and intent to safely dispose of e-waste.   

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