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The New e-Waste Rules have Something for Everyone

India’s new e-waste rules require businesses to recycle 80 per cent by 2025. While earlier the stress was on collection targets, the draft rules, which have been floated for public comments and may come into effect later this year, emphasise Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), recycling and trading, which is in tandem with the government’s objective to promote a circular economy.

Along with specifying targets, it lays out a system of companies securing extended producer responsibility (EPR) certificates. The tradable credit system, akin to carbon credits, will allow companies to temporarily bridge shortfalls.



E-waste generation trends have moved uphill not only because of higher and irresponsible consumption and shorter life spans of products but also mandatory obsolescence planned by the producers of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).

India is the third-largest electronic waste generator in the world after China and the USA, according to the UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020. India generated 3.2 million tonnes of e-waste in 2019. Details of 90 per cent of this waste are undocumented. A Central Pollution Control Board report had put the e-waste generation at 1,014,961 tonnes for 21 types of EEE in the financial year 2019-2020, up 32 per cent from 2018-2019. Of this, only 3.6 per cent and 10 per cent were actually collected in the country in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

A study by KPMG and ASSOCHAM says computer equipment account for almost 70 per cent of e-waste in India, followed by telecom/phones (12 per cent), electrical equipment (8 per cent) and medical equipment (7 per cent).

While an ASSOCHAM-EY joint report, titled ‘Electronic Waste Management in India’ estimated India to generate 5 million tonnes by 2021, the pandemic-induced increase in the use of electronic devices is set to accentuate this problem in the near future and the number could touch 100 million tonnes by 2050 without proper intervention.

Though India is the only country in the South Asian region with legislation, the e-waste, more than 95 per cent, in the country is largely handled by the informal sector, starting from collection, and dismantling to recycling, which only adds to the problem. “Enforcing rules remains a challenge, as do other aspects, such as the lack of proper collection and logistics infrastructure, limited awareness of consumers on the hazards of improper disposal of e-waste, the lack of standards for the collection, dismantling of e-waste and treatment of it, and an inefficient and tedious reporting process,” said the UN report on e-waste management in India.



Consumer goods companies and makers of electronics goods have to ensure at least 60 per cent of their electronic waste is collected and recycled by 2023 with targets to increase them to 70 and 80 per cent in 2024 and 2025 respectively, according to a draft notification by the Environment Ministry.

Carbon credits are permits that allow a company to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases within a specified time period. These are tradable and if a company pollutes less, it can sell them to others.

A new chapter EPR Framework is added to the new draft. This was not there in the existing E-waste Management Rules, 2016. Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) registration has also been made mandatory for manufacturers, producers, recyclers and refurbishers to carry out the business.

Companies will have to register on an online portal and specify their annual production and e-waste collection targets. They also have to get EPR certificates from recyclers and refurbishers. The ERP certify the quantity of e-waste collected and recycled in a particular year by a company and an organisation may sell surplus quantities to another company to help it meet its obligations.

A producer purchases the EPR Certificate and refurbisher certificate limited to its liability in the current year plus any left-over liability of the preceding year. All such transactions are recorded by the producers/recyclers and submitted at the time of filing the quarterly return.

The EPR also requires producers to set up e-waste exchange facilities to facilitate collection and recycling, and assign specific responsibility to bulk consumers of electronic products for safe disposal.

A Steering Committee headed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) Chairman will oversee the implementation and coordinate the trade of EPR certificates.

Violators will have to pay a fine or “environment compensation”, which would be refunded in part depending on how late the offenders meet their targets. The draft, however, doesn’t specify the quantum of these fines.



The EPR, which has been defined as the “responsibility of any producer of electrical or electronic equipment, for meeting recycling targets only through registered recycler of e-waste, would also ensure environmentally-sound management of e-waste.

The provision that the importers of used EEE will have a 100 per cent EPR obligation for the imported material after the end of life if not re-exported, would help prevent the dumping of e-waste in the country through the import channel. Notably, 80 per cent of e-waste in developed countries meant for recycling is sent to developing countries such as India, China, Ghana and Nigeria.

The draft also proposes raising the e-waste recycling targets to 80 per cent of the waste generation indicated in the EPR plan.

Every producer of EEE has to ensure their components or consumables or parts or spares do not contain lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers beyond a maximum concentration value of 0.1 per cent by weight in homogenous materials for lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers and of 0.01 per cent by weight in homogenous materials for cadmium.

It is worth mentioning here that e-waste contains over 1000 toxic materials, which are detrimental to human health and the environment as these contaminate soil and groundwater.

Since over 95 per cent of e-waste is handled by the unorganized sector, the state governments have been entrusted with the responsibility of earmarking industrial space for e-waste dismantling and recycling facilities, undertaking industrial skill development and establishing measures for ensuring health and safety of workers engaged.

Various start-ups and companies in India are now involved in collection and recycling of electronic waste. Therefore, there is a need for better implementation methodologies and inclusion policies that provide accommodation and validation for the informal sector to step up and help meet the recycling targets in an environmentally-sound manner.

The draft proposes registration of all refurbishers and recyclers on online portal created for the purpose.



The E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 included bulk consumers as well as household consumers and defined responsibilities for both types of consumers apart from producers, recyclers and other stakeholders. The consumers were asked not to throw e-waste in municipal bins. The omission of this responsibility in the new rules can burden the municipal bodies and aggravate the problem of dumping household e-wastes with municipal solid wastes.

‘Bulk consumer’ is defined as any entity, which has used at least 1000 electrical and electronic equipment at any point in time in the particular financial year and includes an e-retailer.

Since only 10 per cent of the total e-waste generated is collected for recycling in India, defining the responsibility of household and retail consumers in the new rules would provide a policy push for creating awareness about the responsible disposal of e-waste and extending the use of purchased products till the end-of-life period since it is critical for environmental protection and preventing health hazards.




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