It was called the Deposit Refund Scheme (DRS) and was seen as an effective e-waste management solution for India. It worked like this: as a consumer you deposited a small fee when you bought a product, say a laptop or a mobile phone. After having used the product through its lifecycle you dropped it off at a collection centre and claimed a refund on your deposit. The product went back for recycling and thus encouraged a circular economy.

The DRS was part of the E-Waste Management Rules 2016 but seems to have been left by the wayside along the way. But now there is an attempt to resurrect its potential. A recent workshop on DRS by Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Producer’s Responsibility Organisation (PRO) RLG Systems India Pvt. Ltd. addressed the various issues involved and evaluated if the scheme could be revived in India.

Points out Radhika Kalia, MD of RLG India: “The mounting challenge of e-waste in the country urgently calls for the exploration of innovative solutions….The DRS offers a solution that may effectively help in e-waste management and form a part of a larger set of solutions aimed at resolving the critical e-waste problem.”

Collection of e-waste

While the scheme ensures that e-waste is collected and properly recycled in the formal sector, helping to enhance resource conservation and environment protection, there are several hurdles that it must first overcome.

Lack of awareness about depository schemes is a core challenge. Many producers may not understand how these schemes work thus hampering the refunding process. Issues related to documentation, verification, and processing of refunds can arise, causing delays and inconvenience for producers and consumers. Regulatory changes or updates of the scheme also leads to confusion among producers.

Crucial areas

Any lack of transparency in the administration of the scheme could be detrimental to its success. A clear mechanism to resolve disputes related to depository receipts or refund schemes is also essential. Besides, if the scheme is not mandatory for producers and consumers, there is very little chance of it working.

But several experts are agreed that DRS is important at a time when e-waste is growing in India. The scheme not only promotes responsible disposal but also encourages consumers to return their electronic products, reducing the environmental impact of e-waste. Responsible disposal in turn facilitates safe recovery of valuable resources from e-waste.