E-waste management may end up as just junk sans policy support: Experts

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on July 24, 2019

According to study, India’s e-waste generation amounted to 2 million tonnes in 2017, out of which computer and telecom equipment accounted for 82 per cent.   -  Amit Dave

Consumer brands want government to step up awareness, ease curbs on movement of goods


The state of e-waste management in India needs a major facelift through the joint effort of stakeholders including producers, policy makers and recyclers, according to experts.

According to the United Nations University’s Global E-waste Monitor, India’s e-waste generation amounted to 2 million tonnes in 2017. Computer and telecom equipment accounted for 82 per cent of the total e-waste generated in India, according to an ASSOCHAM-KPMG study.

However, only 0 .036 million tonnes of waste was processed.

E-waste generation in India is estimated to increase by 500 per cent by 2020. Producers, recyclers and policy-makers need to work together simultaneously to cover this gap in waste-management.

The primary problem faced by consumer brands along with registered Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO) is the lack of awareness amongst citizens leading to consumer goods ending up in the informal system. Approximately 95 per cent of e-waste generated ends up in the informal sector according to reports.

Read also: ‘The urgency to tackle e-waste is showing on the ground’

“There is a need to recognise the fact that India has a huge informal recycling sector that distorts the e-waste ecosystem,” George Paul, CEO, MAIT said.

“Lack of awareness at all levels including corporate is a major challenge that hampers or slows down the collection,” said V Ranganathan CEO, Cerebra Integrated Technologies.” Producers are already in the EPR loop. They simply need to ensure that e-waste is being recycled through authorised recyclers only.”

Consumer brands require government assistance to tackle the issue and drive waste disposal to formal sectors for optimized management.

“Governments should assist producers in driving awareness of proper disposal options and should also promote awareness of current and pending legislation as well as of available producer recycling programs,” said Prem Ananth, Regulatory Affairs Manager, Dell Technologies.

Nakul Kumar, COO & Co-Founder of re-commerce brand Cashify said, “ The biggest problem faced by Cashify or for any other OEM brand in tackling e-waste is to encourage people to submit e-waste or sell any electronic that they are not using to the certified recyclers.”

Global consumer electronics brands are also affected by the lack of free movement of consumer goods due to policy implications along with differing global standards for e-waste collection and management.

"We face challenges with overly restrictive e-waste and tax regulations that hinder the free movement of used Cisco gear,” said Darrel Stickler, Global Lead for Environmental Sustainability, Cisco.” Because we have a global supply chain, we must be able to move our used gear back through that supply chains at reasonable cost and effort. Governments should streamline regulations to promote free and low-cost movement of goods back into global supply chains.”

“Legislation should require recycling standards equivalent with globally-recognised standards to ensure those materials are managed in a socially and environmentally sound manner, ensuring a level playing field for all recyclers,” added Ananth.

Dell claims to have exceeded their EPR-based targets for 2018 while Cisco recycled 31 per cent of its global product returns of 13,946 metric tonnes in 2018.

Need for stringent regulations

From a policy perspective, there is a need for stricter regulations and surveillance in the implementation of the E-waste (Management) Amendment Rules, 2018.

Priti Mahesh, Chief Programme Coordinator of environmental NGO Toxics Link said, “ The rules came in at 2016. We have seen some improvements in terms of EPR. EPR authorization being granted to producers and producers are sharing their EPR plans. But what we found on the ground is that the implementation of these EPR plans is more on paper.”

“Since the collection back targets are set clearly, under the E-Waste (Management) Amendment Rules, 2018, the producers have started collecting back the products,” said Dinesh Bandela, Deputy Programme Manager, Environmental Governance, Centre for Science and Environment. “However, the percentage of target achieved is not available on public domain. The random checking provision provided by the rules are not utilised for.”

Strengthening recycling infrastructure

Apart from better implementation of existing policies, a need for strengthening of existing infrastructure through public-private partnership can play a pivotal role in balancing the deficit in recycling capabilities.

Ashok Pamidi, CEO, NASSCOM Foundation said: “Policy makers need to innovate and enable technologies that are cost effective and can address large volumes of waste. We have to find ways to reduce the quantum of e-waste that gets deposited in landfills. “

Read more: There’s much value in store in e-waste

Ananth added: “The sustainability of e-waste management systems has to be ensured by improving the collection and recycling systems. It would be desirable to establish public-private partnerships in setting up buy-back or drop-off centres. Many more environmental epidemiological studies are required to assess the present status of e-waste management system in India.”

According to the spokesperson of Sanshodhan, an E-Waste Exchange organization, “Recycling infrastructure need huge boost and attention from the Government as well as from electronic and electrical product manufacturers. There is a lot of space and R&D and requirement of technologies for resource recovery are the priority of current times.”

As of now, government has 312 registered recycling facilities across 19 states with the capacity to recycle 0.78 million metric tonnes.

( The writer is interning with Business Line)

Published on July 24, 2019

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