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India is the third largest e-waste generating country in the world. China along with the United States is ahead of it. Reportedly, our country produces about 3 million tonnes of e-waste in a year; it is expected to go up to 5 million tonnes this year, that is, 2021.

The Centre had laid down rules, with respect to e-waste management and the most important of them is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), in 2016 which was recently updated in 2021. The rule states that it is mandatory for the electric and electronic equipment manufacturers to return their pile of e-waste to authorised recyclers.

The scenario post EPR implementation

Even after the EPR guidelines there is a lot that needs to be done in India with respect to e-waste management. Reportedly there is no specific mechanism to confirm if EPR is being implemented perfectly. Random inspections can be carried out by the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board) or state PCBs, but there isn’t any record regarding the same.

It is difficult to gauge if the rule is properly followed or abided by the manufacturers. There are still a number of issues pertaining to e-waste collection and management prevalent in the country. More supervision is required. Manufacturers need to co-operate more with the authorized e-waste recyclers in the country.

India has many producer responsibility organizations (PRO).These are authorized organizations that take the responsibility for scientific management of e-waste generated from the discarded electrical and electronic products to have a sustainable environment. Their work must be traced to understand what their contribution towards creating a greener environment is.

All these organizations are competent enough that is how they have been granted the license to be the PRO but the co-operation must be from all levels and the e-waste generators, mainly from bulk e-waste producers. All stakeholders must contribute equally to efficiently make the country e-waste free.

Awareness along with cooperation is the key  

Creating awareness so that the users of electronic and electrical products hand over their discarded items in a reasonable and efficient way is important. People must understand why it is important to recycle and dispose of e-waste in a suitable manner. E-waste collection and recycling companies like Namo E-Waste have carried out many initiatives in this regard and have also made the collection procedure convenient for them. People are made aware regarding how and where to go with their e-waste items. These recycling companies are doing all they can to build a responsible image and get people to recycle their e-waste. They even go door-to-door collecting the e-waste.

Best EPR practices

Europe leads the list when it comes to having best EPR practices. The EPR systems implemented in European countries like Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia and Netherlands are quite effective but they too have their own set of challenges. They differ from India in implementing their rules better. The guidelines laid down are actually being made to follow. India can do a lot better if the proper implementation of EPR guidelines is ensured. 

Salient features of the updated EPR guidelines according to the OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) website:

  • Focus on target based approach
  • More flexibility for implementation of EPR
  • Pan India EPR Authorization of Producers
  • Additional Options- PRO, e-waste exchange, Deposit Refund scheme
  • Collection- Producer’s responsibility, collection mechanism approach and no separate authorization
  • E-retailers now Producers
  • CFL and other mercury containing lamp brought under the purview of rules.
  • Extended to manufacturers, dealers and refurbishers
  • Exemption – only for micro enterprises
  • Bulk Consumer- need to file annual returns now.
  • Only one permission- Authorization for all stakeholders including dismantlers and recyclers.
  • Inter-state transportation- strengthen the mechanism
  • Liability clause- penalty for violation of the rules
  • State Govt Responsibility- allot space, skill development, health and safety of workers