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Come May, e-waste rule will become highly demanding

Vasudha Venugopal
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: The instruction manuals that usually come with your cell phone or television set most often lay down ways to properly discard these consumer items but do all of us read them? Come May, electronic device manufacturers might have to put in more efforts to ensure their ‘take back' schemes work better, as they will be responsible for the safe disposal of electronic and electrical goods that they produce.

As per the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2010, which will come into effect in May 2012, manufacturers of electronic goods, under the Extended Producers' Responsibility (EPR), will be responsible for recycling, reducing levels of hazardous substances in electronics and setting up collection centres. Bulk users such as large corporations, banks, insurance companies, government agencies and educational institutions will also need to keep a record of their e-waste disposal.

The Central Pollution Control Board is in the process of formulating guidelines to implement the rule that will be enforced from May 1, 2012. Chennai Corporation has already authorised 19 recyclers who can be roped in by units for their e-waste disposal. Proposed plans to start e-waste collection centres are on hold, because there is negligible e-waste even in the 4,500 tonnes of solid waste generated by the city every day, says R. Kumar, joint chief environmental engineer, TNPCB.

City-based recyclers also feel not much e-waste flows into their plants. “This is essentially why the rule needs to be enforced because now most of the e-waste generated in companies and households goes to the informal sector which needs to be stopped. We are also trying to figure out the quantum of e-waste generated as the last inventory we have is based on data of 2005,” says Anand Kumar, senior environment engineer, Hazardous Waste management division, CPCB.

“The implementation of the rule has become all the more important as most e-governance schemes attempt to link organisations through fibre-optic and through other devices. The amount of e-waste is only going to increase, and transparency in the rule will also help attract investors from other countries,” says Sabyasachi Patra, director, Manufacturer's Association of IT Industry.

However, electronic manufacturers and IT companies in the city feel the Act might be too harsh on them as the onus of disposal of all goods is on them. Some feel the rule is being implemented hurriedly with no clarity on certain concerns such as the location of the collection centres - if they should be affiliated to the manufacturers - and the implications of the cost of handling e-waste exceeding recovery.

The new rules will cover discarded IT and telecom equipment and consumer electrical goods but not medical devices, light bulbs, fluorescent tubes and batteries. “So, unless recyclers get a good volume of e-waste, recycling them may not be economically viable,” says Ram Ramachandran, managing director, TES- AMM recyclers. The process of authorising recyclers has been shifted to State PCBs by the CPCB which some manufacturers feel is a concern because there might be shortage of auditing manpower.

Citing countries with successful recycling models such as Japan, where there is a shared responsibility for e waste management, with even the user paying for it, Arjun Balakrishanan, director, Panasonic, says that putting all blame and responsibility on the producer can pull development down.

Also, ‘take back' schemes are yet to gain mileage in India, says A. Prem Ananth of Dell.

Another glaring shortcoming, feel experts, is that the legislation contains no penalties for producers or recyclers for violations of the law.

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