Govt relaxes e-waste rules as deadline looms
The Union ministry of environment has amended the E-waste (Management) Rules, 2016, lowering the initial targets for existing electronics manufacturers and setting weaker goals for new entrants, according to a notification issued by the ministry on March 22.
The amendment was made to “facilitate and effectively implement the environmentally sound management of e-waste in India,” environment minister Harsh Vardhan said in a statement on Friday.
The minister added that the changes would help in “channelizing the e-waste generated in the country towards authorized dismantlers and recyclers in order to formalize the e-waste recycling sector.”
The rules, notified in 2016, required manufacturers to take responsibility for retrieving and recycling a portion of their output, a provision called extended producer responsibility (EPR). When the amendment was proposed in October last year, the ministry argued that it would help the industry prepare and ensure a “level playing field” for new entrants.
The rules lay down progressive targets for e-waste collection and safe disposal. In the third year, producers were mandated to retrieve and safely dispose of 30% of their estimated waste generation with the target increasing to 40% in the fourth year and 70% from the seventh year onwards.
The initial target has now been reduced from 30% to 10% for 2017-18 for existing producers under the new rules but they still have to meet the 70% target by 2023 onwards.
For new entrants, who have been operational for lesser time than the average life of the product they are selling, will have to meet a 5% target in 2018-19 and ultimately a 20% from 2025 onwards.
Pranshu Singhal, the founder of Karo Sambhav Pvt Ltd, said the rules, however, came into effect only in October 2017 which means the target effectively for 2017-2018 is 5%.
“The rules have come at an opportune time as this has helped in clarifying the confusion on the targets for this financial year for producers. A key inclusion in the amendment is that PROs are now required to register with CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) under the new rules,” Singhal said.
Karo Sambhav is a collaborative Producer Responsibility Organisation (PROs) or third parties to which producers delegate used product management.
Nasscom Foundation, the social arm of the industry trade group, said it welcomes and supports these amendments.
“As of now 90% plus e-waste is being managed by the informal sector, which has been in existence for over two decades. Having new realistic EPR targets will encourage adherence from organisations,” Nasscom Foundation’s chief executive Shrikant Sinha said.
A United Nations-backed report estimated that in 2016, India produced an astounding two million tonnes of e-waste.
The e-waste management rules 2016 superseded those of 2011 and were hailed as a major step forward in tackling the country’s burgeoning waste problem but provisions laying the onus of waste disposal on manufacturers did not go down well with electronics manufacturers.
Activists allege the ministry has bowed to industry pressure and the reliance on the informal sector has actually contributed to the problem of poor waste disposal and pollution.
“They have diluted the rules. There was no attempt to look at the original targets. I don’t see any reason why the targets should have been relaxed,” Satish Sinha, an associate director at Delhi-based NGO Toxics Link, said.