Unpacking the new set of e-waste rules

Source– The post is based on the article “Unpacking the new set of e-waste rules” published in The Hindu on 28th February 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Environment

Relevance: Issues related to e-waste

News- In November 2022, the Ministry of Environment and Forests further notified a new set of e-waste rules. These rules will come into force from April 1, 2023.

What are some specifics about older rules related to e-waste?

The first set of e-waste Rules was notified in 2011 and came into effect in 2012. An important component of the Rules was the introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

E-Waste rules 2016 were amended in 2018. These rules included provisions to promote ‘authorisation’ and ‘product stewardship’. Other categories of stakeholders such ‘Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO) were also introduced in these rules.

What are issues with the new e-waste Rules of 2022?

  1. The new rules of 2022 in its EPR framework include the requirement of ‘Registration of Stakeholders’. But, many formal recyclers undertake activities only up to the pre-processing or segregation stage. After that, they channelise e-­waste to the informal sector.

The earlier rules placed importance on seeking authorisation by stakeholders. But, a weak monitoring system and a lack of transparency resulted in inadequate compliance.

  1. A ‘digitalized systems approach’ has been introduced in the new rules. It may now address these challenges. Standardising the e -waste value chain through a common digital portal may ensure transparency.

But, it is crucial to reduce the frequency of ‘paper trading’ or ‘false trail’. It is the practice of falsely revealing 100% collection on paper while collecting ‘scrap’ to meet targets.

  1. Two important stages of ‘efficient’ e-­waste recycling are efficient recoveries of rare earth metals and safe disposal of the residual during e-­waste recycling.

The rules briefly touch upon the two aspects. But, they do not clearly state the requirement for ensuring the ‘recovery tangent’.

  1. The new notification does away with PRO and dismantlers and vests all the responsibility of recycling with authorised recyclers. This move seems to cause initial turbulence, where the informal channels may seek benefits.

PROs acted as an intermediary between producers and formal recyclers by bidding for contracts from producers and arranging for ‘certified and authorised’ recycling.

The informal sector plays a crucial role in e-waste handling. 95% of e-­waste is channelised to the sector. But, it has given little recognition in the new rules.

The recycling is the last stage that poses a major concern where e waste is handed over to the informal recyclers. The rest of the stages do not involve any hazardous practices.

What are other challenges in recycling of e-waste?

Many producers have still not set up collection centres and some have labelled their head office located on the outskirts of the city as the ‘only’ collection point.

Formal companies are mainly clustered in the metropolises. They also fail to provide doorstep

collection to consumers. The quantum of e-­waste is not enough to meet their overhead

expenses or transport.

consumers lack awareness and information about the existence of any such services.

What is the way forward for proper implementation of e-waste rules?

All stakeholders must have the right information and intent to safely dispose of e­waste.

There is a need for consistent efforts towards increasing consumer awareness, strengthening reverse logistics, building capacity of stakeholders, improving existing infrastructure, enhancing product designing, and adopting green procurement practices.

This should be supplemented by establishing a robust collection and recycling system on the ground.

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