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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Unpacking the new set of e-waste rules

 

 

Source: The Hindu

Prelims: Current events of national importance, Environmental pollution and degradation, e waste rules, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), E-Waste (Management) Rules 2022 etc

Mains GS Paper III: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, e waste and its implications on environment etc

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Managing e-waste is a cross cutting and persisting challenge in an era of rapid urbanization, digitalisation and population growth.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

E-Waste:

  • It is short for Electronic-Waste and the term is used to describe old, end-of-life or discarded electronic appliances.
  • It includes their components, consumables, parts and spares.

 

E waste rules:

  • The first set of e-waste Rules: notified in 2011 and came into effect in 2012.
  • Introduction of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR):‘producers’ are responsible for the safe disposal of electronic and electric products once the consumer discards them.
  • E-waste rules 2016(amended in 2018): It included provisions to promote ‘authorisation’ and ‘product stewardship’.
    • ‘Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO) were also introduced in these rules.

 

Issues with these rules:

  • Importance of seeking authorisation by stakeholders, but a weak monitoring system and a lack of transparency resulted in inadequacy in compliance.
  • Most of the ‘refurbishers’ or the ‘repair shops’ operating in Delhi are not authorized under the Central Pollution Control Board of India.
  • Many formal recyclers undertake activities only up to the pre-processing or segregation stage, and thereafter channelise e-waste to the informal sector, which is a pure violation of law.

 

e-waste rules 2022(come into force from April 1, 2023):

  • Restricted the use of hazardous substances (such as lead, mercury, and cadmium) in manufacturing electrical and electronic equipment that have an adverse impact on human health and the environment.
  • Increased the range of electronic goods coveredg., laptops, mobile, cameras etc.
  • Targets fixed: Producers of electronic goods have to ensure at least 60% of their electronic waste is collected and recycled by 2023 with targets to increase them to 70% and 80% in 2024 and 2025, respectively.
    • Companies will report these on an online portal.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility Certificates (similar to carbon credit mechanism): This will allow the offsetting of e-waste responsibility to a third party.
  • ‘Environmental compensation’ to be provided by the companies that don’t meet their target.
  • Role of State Governments: They will earmark industrial space for e-waste dismantling and recycling facilities, undertake industrial skill development and establish measures for protecting the health and safety of workers engaged in the dismantling and recycling facilities for e-waste.
  • Role of manufacturers: Make the end product recyclable
    • A component made by different manufacturers be compatible with each other
  • Role of Central Pollution Control Board: It shall conduct random sampling of electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market to monitor and verify the compliance of reduction of hazardous substances provisions.
  • A ‘digitalized systems approach: It may now address the challenges of channelising e waste.

 

Important stages of ‘efficient’ e-waste recycling are:

  • Component recovery:(adequate and efficient recoveries of rare earth metals in order to reduce dependence on virgin resources)
  • Residual disposal:(safe disposal of the leftover ‘residual’ during e-waste recycling).

 

Issues associated with the new rules:

  • The rules briefly touch upon the two aspects, but do not clearly state the requirement for ensuring the ‘recovery tangent’.
  • The new notification does away with PRO and dismantlers and vests all the responsibility of recycling with authorized recyclers.
    • It can cause initial turbulence, where the informal channels may try and seek benefits from.
  • PROs acted as an intermediary between producers and formal recyclers by bidding for contracts from producers and arranging for ‘certified and authorized’ recycling.
    • Fresh challenges might emerge as companies are no longer required to engage with PROs and dismantlers.
  • The informal sector, which plays a crucial role in e-waste handling, draws no recognition in the new rules which could be on account of its ‘illegality’.

 

‘Karo Sambhav’, a Delhi-based PRO: It has integrated informal aggregators in its collection mechanism.

  • e-waste is entered in a safe and structured system
  • The informal sector has an advantage in terms of financial and legal security.

 

Challenges associated with e waste:

  • Many producers in Delhi have still not set up collection centers and some brands have labeled their head office (located on the outskirts of Delhi) as the ‘only’ collection point.
  • Formal companies, low in number and clustered in the metropolises, also fail to provide doorstep collection to consumers when 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.

 

Way Forward

  • Standardizing the e-waste value chain through a common digital ‘portal’ may ensure transparency and is crucial to reduce the frequency of ‘paper trading’ or ‘false trail’.
    • A practice of falsely revealing 100% collection on paper while collecting and/or weighing ‘scrap’ to meet targets.
  • In order to ensure maximum efficiency, the activities of the recyclers must be recorded in the system and the authorities should periodically trace the quantity of e-waste that went for recycling vis-à-vis the ‘recovery’ towards the end.
  • The informal sector is the ‘face’ of e-waste disposal in India as 95% of e-waste is channelised to the sector.
    • Therefore, they also hold immense potential to improve the state of e-waste management.
  • In the hierarchical process of e-waste collection, segregation and recycling in the informal sector, it is the last stage that poses a major concern where e-waste is handed over to the informal dismantlers/recyclers.
    • The rest of the stages (collection of mixed waste, segregation of e-waste, clustered accumulation of e-waste according to their type) do not involve any hazardous practices.
      • It should be strategically utilized for better collection of e-waste.
    • In order to ensure the efficient implementation of the law, stakeholders must have the right information and intent to safely dispose of e-waste.
    • There is a need for simultaneous and consistent efforts towards increasing consumer awareness, strengthening reverse logistics, building capacity of stakeholders, improving existing infrastructure, enhancing product designing, rationalizing input control (by defining ‘rare earth elements’ as ‘critical raw materials’), and adopting green procurement practices.
      • This should be supplemented by establishing a robust collection and recycling system on the ground, making it responsive to meet legislative requirements.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

Do you think India will meet 50 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy by 2030 ? Justify your answer. How will the shift of subsidies from fossil fuels to renewables help achieve the above objective ? Explain.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)