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New e-waste rules threaten jobs

GS Pape 3

Syllabus: Environment Conservation

 

Source: The Hindu

Context: Government has proposed a new framework for regulating e-waste in India that may upset informal sectors.

Direction: This is an ongoing development, just go through it once. On E-waste keep a one-page note on it handy.

E-Waste refers to all items of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) and its parts that have been discarded by their owner as waste without the intent of re-use. India is the third-largest e-waste generator in the world after China and the USA (Global E-waste Monitor 2020).

 

 Status of E-waste in India

  • One of the fastest-growing waste streams in the world
  • 95% of e-wastein India is recycled by the informal sector

 

What is the issue about?

Under E-Waste Management Rules 2016, it is mandatory for the organization to comply with the Extended producer responsibility of recycling e-waste. Complying with that, most firms outsourced recycling to organizations called Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) (CPCB has registered 74 PROs)

 

 

In May this year, Environment Ministry issued a draft notification that does away with PRO and dismantlers and vests all responsibility of recycling with authorized recyclers, only a handful of whom exist in India.

 

Now, Authorized Recyclers will source a quantity of waste, recycle them and generate electronic certificates. Companies can buy these certificates equivalent to their annual committed target and thus do not have to be involved with engaging PROs and dismantlers.

 

 

Benefits:

  • Streamline and standardize the system
  • Introduce an Electronic management system that would track the material that went in for recycling
  • Make recycling remunerative: Currently, the entire system isn’t remunerative for recyclers, who actually do the job of recycling.
  • Increase reliability: The current system managed by PRO isn’t always reliable as there have been several instances of double-counting (where the same articles recycled once for one company are credited into the account for multiple companies).

 

 

Objection against the move:

  • Job loss: Several PROs have mailed their objections to the Environment Ministry arguing that dismantling a fledgling system was detrimental to the future of e-waste management in India and job loss.
  • Loss of investment for established PROs
  • Loss of accountability: PROs provide check and balance against unauthorised recycling
Government Measures

E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2011: established Extended Producer Responsibility, but it did not set collection targets

E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016: A manufacturer, refurbisher, dealer, and Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) were brought under the ambit of these Rules.

o   PROs are professional organizations financed by producers with the responsibility for the collection and channelization of e-waste generated from their products to ensure environmentally sound management.

E-Waste (Management) Amendment Rules, 2018: to further formalize sectors by channelizing the e-waste generated towards authorized dismantlers and recyclers.

 

Policy measures to improve the recycling capacity of E-waste

  • Need for E-waste Legislation that incentivizes collection and disposal: India has Deposit Refund Scheme wherein the producer charges an additional amount as a deposit from consumers which will be returned to the consumer along with interest when the end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment is returned.

o   However, lack of awareness of consumers and non-strict enforcement of measures has led to DRS schemes not being successful. Here Swiss model of E-waste management can be used. (See case study)

  • Data collection of E-waste: Data on quantities and flows of e-waste can help in monitoring, controlling, and incentivizing the establishment of recycling units at the local level which will help kick start formal e-waste economy

o   value  of  raw  materials  in  the  global  e-waste  generated  in  2019  is  equal  to  approximately USD 57 billion

  • Public awareness on E-waste economy: apart from the environmental and health benefits of recycling, consumers can earn by using schemes like DRS. Need to take support of NGOs, community organizations, RWAs, etc.

o   MeitY, under digital India, from 2016, is creating awareness about safe disposal and hazards of informal recycling.

  • Realizing the potential of Circular economy: Improving end-of-life of e-waste through circular economy. Sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, and recycling existing materials and products can extend the life cycle of products.

o   Reduce virgin material usage

o   Build technologies around greater extraction and recycling capabilities

o   Process design to find an alternative to existing materials and to not extract rare earth resources

o   Right to Repair standards (EU): from 2021 firms will have to make appliances longer-lasting and will have to supply spare parts for machines for up to 10 years.

  • Integration of informal recycling with formal recycling: Setting up recycling units in each hotspot of e-waste and by including the informal collection system, comprising of Kabadiwalas and scrap dealers, with the formal recycling system through employing them, training them in proper e-waste collection, will go a long way in formalization of the w-waste economy

 

  • NGT’s Directions on E-waste:

o   Scientific enforcement of E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 as only 10% e-waste is collected currently

o   Compliance with Rule 16: which requires a reduction in the use of hazardous substances in the manufacture of electrical and electronic equipment

o   Constant vigil and attention to hotspots where maximum accidents are happening due to unscientific handling of e-waste.

State pollution control boards need to identify the hotspots and to coordinate with the District Administration at local levels

 

Conclusion:

What is needed is a sound market-based incentive that encourages both demand and supply-side factors to voluntarily adopt e-waste recycling. In this respect, the e-waste clinic at Bhopal is a pilot project wherein e-waste will be collected door-to-door or could be deposited directly at the clinic in exchange for a fee, which needs to be studied for its success.

 

Insta Links

E-Waste management

 

Mains Links

Q. The Electronic waste, or e-waste, is one of the fastest-growing waste streams worldwide. Discuss the measures that are needed for the safe disposal of e-waste in the country. (250 Words)

 

Prelims Link

Due to improper/indiscriminate disposal of old and used computers or their parts, which of the following are released into the environment as e-waste? (UPSC 2013)

    1. Beryllium
    2. Cadmium
    3. Chromium
    4. Heptachlor
    5. Mercury
    6. Lead
    7. Plutonium

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7 only

(b) 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 only

(c) 2, 4, 5 and 7 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7

Answer: B

Heptachlor is an organochlorine compound that was used as an insecticide. Plutonium is a radioactive metallic element with the atomic number 94. It is not e-waste.