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E-waste management needs the ‘responsibility model’

                                                                                                                            Business Line, 25th February, 2015, New Delhi


A UNEP study states that 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated a year globally, and India accounts for nearly 2.7 million tonnes. MOHAMMED YOUSUF

The Centre should strictly enforce the e-waste management Rules 2011, with steep penalties for non-compliance

India is currently experiencing swift increase in the consumption of electrical and electronic goods. Electronics industry happens to be the world’s largest and fastest growing manufacturing sector, which has led to rapid growth in waste streams due to a high rate of obsolescence in technology usage.

‘E-waste’ (end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment products), has become a long-term problem, which needs immediate attention, given its environmental and health hazards.

A UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) study states that 50 million tonnes (mt) of e-waste is generated a year globally, and India accounts for nearly 2.7 mt.

E-waste management infrastructure has slowly been improving in India, with an impetus from the Government through the enforcement of the ‘E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011’, which are based on an EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) approach.

As of February 2014, there were a total of 98 registered recyclers and dismantlers for environmentally sound e-waste management, with a 2,93,572 tonnes a year recycling/dismantling capacity.

Shared responsibility

Effective e-waste management in India today needs a responsibility model in which all three primary stakeholders—the producer, the generator (households and bulk consumers), and the local regulatory body (municipality)—share the e-waste management (primarily transportation and recycling) costs. Such a model could be centred on the concept of a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO), an entity which could include various e-waste producers (manufacturers and importers) and civic and civil bodies. The producers bear a part of the financial responsibility to establish and operate the PROs, by contributing to a producer responsibility fund.

PROs could then employ systems to monitor real-time information on the flow of materials, which may also reduce costs. e-waste collection and recycling through this approach ensures crucial linkages for assuring the viability of recycling facilities. The collection agents could be civic or civil bodies, private entities, and kabadiwalas for door-to-door collection.

Households could be incentivised to bring the e-waste to a mobile van or any other dedicated collection centres. Forward looking producers in developed countries have employed entities such as proposed PROs, for e-waste management, in lieu of each producer establishing its own separate system.

Government’s role

The viability of this shared responsibility model is dependent on a well-established, municipal-operated solid waste management structure. For such innovative models to thrive and scale, the Government needs to play a crucial role in providing the required support (similar to the current urban waste management projects), and policy enablement to make projects financially attractive to developers.

In recent times, international funding agencies and venture capitalists have provided seed funds to e-waste recycling companies in India, thus opening new opportunities in the sector.

Further, there is an immediate need to create and replicate efficient and profitable PPP models and a stricter enforcement of the e-waste Rules, 2011, with steep penalties for non-compliance. State pollution control boards need to augment their capacities and create a robust database of compliant companies. Finally, enhanced public awareness needs to be on the policy makers’ agenda to ensure that consumers make informed purchasing decisions.

YES BANK, India’s 4th largest private sector bank, along with TERI-BCSD has launched a knowledge report, titled ‘E-waste Management in India – The Corporate Imperative’, with an objective to bring out insights that trigger sustainable management of E-waste. This report addresses the stakeholders within the E-waste value chain, providing pragmatic recommendations and portraying a holistic picture. It also includes recommendations by top, senior and middle management from across the e-waste value chain in India.

The writer is Senior President and Country Head – Responsible Banking & Chief Sustainability Officer, YES Bank

(This article was published on February 25, 2015)