What a waste

In­dia en­acted a law to man­age e-waste in 2016, but lack of data and a mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism have ren­dered it tooth­less |

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - BANJOT KAUR

Lack of data and mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nism have ren­dered In­dia's e-waste law, passed in 2016, tooth­less

HOW DO most of us dis­pose of a mo­bile phone or a tele­vi­sion set? Usu­ally, by sell­ing it to a scrap dealer. But as per the E-Waste Man­age­ment Rules, which were no­ti­fied in Oc­to­ber 2016, man­u­fac­tur­ers of elec­tric and elec­tronic equip­ments must fa­cil­i­tate their col­lec­tion and re­turn it to au­tho­rised dis­man­tlers or re­cy­clers. How­ever, even one and a half years af­ter the law was passed, there is lit­tle ev­i­dence that it is be­ing im­ple­mented.

The mat­ter came to light in March 2018 when the Delhi High Court was hear­ing a petition on solid waste man­age­ment. The court asked Su­nita Narain, di­rec­tor gen­eral of the Cen­tre for Science and En­vi­ron­ment, a Delhi-based non-profit, to sub­mit a re­port on the sta­tus of e-waste in the coun­try. While giv­ing its in­terim or­der on May 22, the court di­rected the Union Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment, For­est and Cli­mate Change (moef&cc) “to de­vise a proper method of in­ven­tor­iza­tion of e-waste” and come up with “a strat­egy and plan” for the proper man­age­ment of e-waste in a time­bound man­ner. The moef&cc has to now sub­mit a sta­tus re­port within eight weeks.

Growth of e-waste

In­dia is one of the big­gest pro­duc­ers of e-waste in the world. The Global E-waste Mon­i­tor 2017, pub­lished by the United Na­tions Univer­sity, states that In­dia gen­er­ates about 2 mil­lion tonnes of e-waste an­nu­ally and ranks fifth among e-waste pro­duc­ing coun­tries, af­ter the US, China, Ja­pan and Ger­many. How­ever, there is no gov­ern­ment data on e-waste gen­er­ated in the coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to a re­ply given by Anil Mad­hav Dave, for­mer Union en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter in the Ra­jya Sabha on March 23, 2017, the Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (cpcb) had pro­jected in 2005 that by 2010, In­dia would gen­er­ate 0.8 mil­lion tonnes of e-waste. Since then, no pro­jec­tion has been made. The 2016 law tasks the state pol­lu­tion con­trol boards (spcbs) to make the es­ti­mates, but no spcb has done that as yet.

The law says that pro­duc­ers of elec­tronic items should pro­vide postal ad­dress, e-mail and toll-free num­bers of col­lec­tion cen­tres— where con­sumers can drop their equip­ments—through web­sites and pro­duc­eruser book­let to fa­cil­i­tate the re­turn of e-waste items. The law de­tails dif­fer­ent mech­a­nisms to col­lect and re­cy­cle e-waste. These in­clude de­posit re­turn schemes (where the pro­ducer takes a sur­charge at the time of the sale and re­funds it when the cus­tomer

re­turns the prod­uct) and exchange schemes. The stake­hold­ers—pro­duc­ers (all brand own­ers, mak­ers and im­porters), man­u­fac­tur­ers (all reg­is­tered com­pa­nies that make elec­tronic goods), dis­man­tlers and re­cy­clers—have to ob­tain an au­tho­ri­sa­tion for their op­er­a­tions. The pro­duc­ers must ob­tain an Ex­tended Pro­ducer Re­spon­si­bil­ity (epr) au­tho­ri­sa­tion from cpcb which will en­sure that they chan­nelise the e-waste to the re­cy­cler/dis­man­tler and meet their an­nual col­lec­tion tar­gets. The pro­duc­ers have to meet tar­gets, which should be 20 per cent of the waste gen­er­ated by their sales. This will in­crease by 10 per cent an­nu­ally for the next five years. Both the dis­man­tlers and re­cy­clers must file re­ports to spcb to cer­tify that they have used sci­en­tific meth­ods in their op­er­a­tions.

Gaps in the sys­tem

In the first year of its im­ple­men­ta­tion, though all com­pa­nies claimed to have met their tar­gets, there is no mech­a­nism to ver­ify their claims. The law states that cpcb and spcbs have to con­duct ran­dom checks on those who have been granted au­tho­ri­sa­tions, but cpcb did not re­spond to Down To Earth on the num­ber of checks it has con­ducted so far.

The law also says that the re­spon­si­bil­ity of pro­duc­ers is not con­fined to waste col­lec­tion, but also to en­sure that the waste reaches the au­tho­rised re­cy­cler/dis­man­tler. But the an­nual re­turns filed by the pro­duc­ers are silent on this. Since there is no mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, there is no guar­an­tee that the waste col­lected by pro­duc­ers does not go to unau­tho­rised re­cy­clers.

Ac­cord­ing to cpcb, there are 214 au­tho­rised re­cy­clers/dis­man­tlers in In­dia. In 2016-17, they treated only 0.036 mil­lion tonne of In­dia’s 2 mil­lion tonnes of e-waste. Ac­cord­ing to many stud­ies, about 95 per cent of In­dia’s e-waste is re­cy­cled in the in­for­mal sec­tor and in a crude man­ner.

The process in­cludes man­ual dis­man­tling, sep­a­ra­tion and shred­ding; un­safe re­moval and col­lec­tion of sol­der by heat­ing; acidic ex­trac­tion of met­als; and, burn­ing of waste to re­move com­bustible plas­tics and iso­lat­ing met­als. These cause se­vere pol­lu­tion in air, wa­ter and soil and se­verely af­fects the worker’s health (see ‘In­for­mal and in­vis­i­ble’).

Im­port­ing trou­ble

What adds to In­dia’s prob­lems is il­le­gally im­ported e-waste. Here too, the gov­ern­ment has no record, but as per the Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion for In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, an in­dus­try body rep­re­sent­ing the in­for­ma­tion­tech­nol­ogy sec­tor, the coun­try re­ceived about 50,000 tonnes in 2007. A 2015 re­port by the United Na­tions En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme says that China, In­dia Malaysia and Pak­istan are the main des­ti­na­tions for largescale ship­ments of haz­ardous wastes, in­clud­ing e-waste, in Asia.

Iron­i­cally, ac­cord­ing to the Haz­ardous and Other Wastes (Man­age­ment and Trans­bound­ary) Rules, 2016, im­port­ing e-waste for dis­posal is banned in In­dia. For re­cy­cling, a prior per­mis­sion from the gov­ern­ment is re­quired and in the last five years, the gov­ern­ment has given no such per­mis­sion, said Dave in the Ra­jya Sabha re­ply. It is al­lowed only for re­fur­bish­ing of sec­ond­hand prod­ucts. How­ever, the nodal agency, the Cen­tral Board of Ex­cise and Cus­toms, lacks the hu­man re­source and the in­fra­struc­ture to dis­tin­guish be­tween a sec­ond­hand prod­uct and e-waste. Even if the law al­lows the im­port of sec­ond-hand prod­ucts for re­fur­bish­ing, many terms and con­di­tions are at­tached. They have to be re-ex­ported to the coun­try of ori­gin in 1-3 years.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to moef&cc of­fi­cials, there is no mech­a­nism to check whether they have been re-ex­ported or not. What’s worse, even if a fraud is de­tected the law is silent on the pe­nal clause. Priti Mahesh, the chief pro­gramme co­or­di­na­tor of Delhi-based non-profit Tox­ics Link, says, “The law looks good only on pa­per. But lack of mon­i­tor­ing and poor im­ple­men­ta­tion has made a mock­ery of the law.”

Mo­rad­abad is one of In­dia's ma­jor e-waste re­cy­cling hubs and em­ploys about 0.2 mil­lion peo­ple in the sec­tor VIKAS CHOUDHURY / CSE

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