ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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E-Waste Law: New Paradigm or Business as Usual?

The new e-waste rules notified by the government are an important step forward. However, loopholes which allow producers to evade their responsibility and the informal sector to evade environmental and health controls need to be addressed. It is also important to create mass awareness and make it easier for the consumer to dispose e-waste. Policy should encourage cooperation rather than competition between those responsible for disposing e-waste.

On 1 May 2012 the new e-waste rules notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF 2011), Government of ­India came into force. They mandate requirements for e-waste disposal by all consumers, producers, importers and traders of electrical and electronic equipment (except those in the micro- and small-scale sector) in India. By doing so, India became one of the few select developing countries, which have such a law in place. The rules aim to manage over 8 lakh tonnes (Central Pollution Control Board [CPCB], 2012) of toxic but very lucrative e-waste currently generated in the country. This is expected to double in the coming decade. Considering that over 95% of the e-waste is currently recycled in small, informal, diverse and distributed operations (almost always with detrimental impacts on human health and the environment), forcing this economy to shift to a safer and more accountable system is in itself a daunting task.

The rules were notified eight years after a report (Toxics Link 2003) highlighted the issue. They are path-breaking in many ways, but severely deficient in others. They incorporate progressive principles like extended producer responsibility (EPR) and removal of hazardous substances (RoHS), which envision waste not as an isolated municipal problem but as part of a product’s life ­cycle. However they also shy away from some key issues – incorporating the informal sector, e-waste imports, disposal of mercury containing lamps, setting collection ­targets, etc.

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