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Beware of your e-garbage

The plasma TV now owns pride of place in your living room and the good old television of 10 years is on its way to the dump.
None | By Chetan Chauhan, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON JUL 31, 2006 02:47 AM IST

The plasma TV now owns pride of place in your living room and the good old television of 10 years is on its way to the dump. Well, watch out. Discarded gizmos and home appliances constitute electronic waste and a new set of disposal rules makes it mandatory for you to sell e-waste only to registered agents of the Central Pollution Control Board and state Pollution Control Boards.

The new Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) rules drafted under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1996 are expected to come into force by early next year after considering inputs from all stakeholders, officials of the ministry of environment and forest said. Once that happens, consumers will have to take steps to ensure that waste is handled and disposed without affecting the environment --- or else pay a fine.

This is the first ever regulation on electronic waste and it puts the onus more on the consumer and operator rather than the producer, unlike in the West. "The approach will put undue responsibility on the consumer and the local municipal authorities without providing any ownership of the solutions," said Ravi Aggarwal of Toxi Links, an NGO working on e-waste.

Government officials, however, explain that pushing the responsibility on the producer will not work in India as it will kill the huge recycling industry. "Environment can't be at the cost of livelihood of millions of people who are dependent on collecting and recycling electronic waste," said an official.

The ministry has tried to tread the middle path. While the rules concentrate more on regulating the recycling industry and management of e-waste in companies and government offices, it also allows e-manufacturing companies to run "take back schemes" provided they have a proper mechanism for further use of the waste. Even before the rules come into force, IT major Wipro is expected to come up with a "take back" policy in September.

Establishments with more than 50 employees will have to prepare an inventory of electronic goods before auctioning them to registered recycling agents.

The unorganised recycling industry would have to become more organised to implement the rules and replace traditional methods of disposal by modern environment friendly gadgets. They will have to maintain data of the e-waste received and recycled into a final product and submit the records to the designated bodies in the state. The state governments, on their part, will have to designate areas for dumping or recycling e-waste. The Centre will constitute EWA — E- Waste Agency — to advise the states on technical matters.

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