Nearly 225 companies that manufacture electronic goods — from smartphones to laptops —have been served notice by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPC) for not complying with electronic-waste procurement norms. These norms, spelt out last October and in effect since May, require companies to ensure that a portion of e-waste, or electronic goods manufactured by them that were past their use-by-date, was collected and “scientifically recycled.”
While such rules have been around since 2011 with States entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring compliance, the Union Environment Ministry last October — via a concept called Extended Producer Responsibility — included dealers, retailers and refurbishers of electronic goods as among those responsible for ensuring that electronic or e-waste goods are collected and “scientifically” recycled.
As per the new rules, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) was given the overall responsibility of ensuring that firms complied with the power to levy fines for non compliance. The new rules specified that producers would have to ensure collection of 30% of e-waste — the percentage on self-determined basis on their projected sales — by 2018 and 70% by 2023.
Failure to do so would result in fines. The list of companies, listed on the CPCB website, include some of India’s electronics majors. “Those who haven’t complied will be sent further notices in a month and if still not compliant, could be fined,” said an Environment Ministry official, familiar with the process, but not authorised to speak to the media.
The Hindu reached out to some of the companies with most — without divulging details —saying they had “complied” with their requirements. Several didn’t respond to queries within the paper’s deadline.
With nearly 1.7 million tonnes of e-waste reportedly produced in India in 2014, the latest available, and increasing annually at between four and five per cent, a variety of experts have warned of its dangers to the environment and health.
This is because defunct laptops, phone and other electronic goods are usually broken down by hand for precious metals and hacked down manually or crudely burnt.
The residue is frequently thrown in rivers, drains and/or disposed in solid waste dumps that over time can contribute to degraded land and water quality as well as neurological and skin diseases, genetic defects and cancer in the workers who deal with them.