India has a relatively low per-capita usage of electronics, yet it is the second largest contributor of e-waste in Asia, after China. Globally, it is the fifth largest – China, USA, Japan and Germany are the top four countries in generating e-waste. Mounting e-waste has become a serious issue across the world, which requires immediate action.
In 2011, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change of India brought out a legal framework, E-waste Management and Handling Rules 2011, which had Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) as a key principle and placed significant responsibility on the producers.
Even eight years after the legal framework around e-waste, the current practices in India suffer from major drawbacks. They include: inventorisation of waste, effective collection and processing mechanism, reluctance on the part of companies to implement EPR, awareness amongst the consumers, illegal recycling, proper recycling standard and stringent implementation of the rules.
The findings of the ASSOCHAM-NEC study reveals that in India, Maharashtra with 19.8 percent contributes the maximum e-waste, while Tamil Nadu ranks second with 13 percent, Uttar Pradesh with 10.1 percent stands at number three, West Bengal with 9.8 percent stands at number four, Delhi at number five generates 9.5 percent, after which comes Karnataka, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh with 8.9 percent, 8.8 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively.
What’s more shocking is that out of the total e-waste produced in India in 2016 only 20 percent was collected properly and recycled. There was no record of the remaining. This in itself spells out that the generation of e-waste is going to increase manifold in future.
Toxics Link, an environmental research and advocacy organisation, has recently released a report which suggests that globally 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in 2016, which is expected to reach as high as 52.2 million tonnes in 2021. A report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in collaboration with the UN e-waste coalition in Davos 2019 revealed that the value of e-waste produced every year is already $62 billion. This is three times the value of the total silver production.
In its latest report, ‘Time to Reboot-III’, Toxics Link says that eight years after the first e-waste rules were notified in India the producers are still shying away from fulfilling their responsibility under EPR. The report asks whether the electronic giants, many of them multinationals, are even doing their bit to manage the end of use electronics.
The objective of the Toxics Link report is to evaluate the performance of the producers with respect to the implementation of e-waste (management) rules, 2016, especially EPR and to assess the accessibility of information/services for a consumer with regards to the take-back system.
The report assesses and rates 54 major electrical and electronics brands on implementation of EPR. It has grouped the companies in four categories based on their initiatives and systems. It reveals that out of 54 companies only seven have been put up in the good category and have initiated measures for implementing efficient take-back systems. Thirteen brands have been assessed as average, while 29 have performed below average. Still five companies have been put up in the poor category as they have performed very poorly on their EPR compliance. Most companies in this category are from the lighting industry.
The companies assessed include top brands like Acer, Apple, Asus, Bajaj Electricals, Beetel, Binatone, Blue Star, Bosch, Canon, Carrier, Daikin, Dell, Epson, Eveready, Godrej, Haier, Havells, Hitachi, HP Enterprise, HP India, HTC, Huawei, iball, IFB, Intex, Karbonn, Kyocera, Lava, Lenovo, LG, Micromax, Mitsubishi Electric, Motorla, O General, One Plus, Onida, Oppo, Oreva, Osram (LEDVANCE), Panasonic, Philips Lighting (Signify), Ricoh, Samsung, Sony, Surya, Toshiba, Videocon, Vivo, Voltas, Vu, Whirlpool, Wipro, Xerox and Xiaomi.
Out of these five brands – Eveready, Havells, Oreva, Videocon and Osram (LEDVANCE) – were given poor rating, while 29 were given below average rating, 15 were given average rating and seven were given good rating.
The findings of the report suggest that most companies are probably making attempts to be seen as complying but not making any serious efforts to ensure that e-waste is collected and channelised in a sound way.
Satish Sinha, associate director, Toxics Link, says, “Things have been better since our first report came out in 2014 where performances of top 50 electronic and electrical brands were tested and out of those 17 were poor performers, but it is not enough.”
The several criteria on which companies were assessed and rated include take-back policy, restrictions of hazardous substances (RoHS) compliance, e-waste collection target achieved and consumer awareness. The ground collection system and information provided by the company representatives on the company’s take-back were also looked at.
Priti Mahesh, chief coordinator, Toxics Link, who has worked closely on the entire study, says, “We are really disappointed to see that the companies are still reluctant to set up effective take-back systems. Helplines with no information and so many non-functional collection centres are clear indications that companies are not making any serious effort.”
Ravi Agarwal, director, Toxics Link, says, “The need of the hour is to strengthen the regulatory bodies and improve monitoring and enforcement and companies with no take-back system on ground should not be allowed to sell within the country.”
The report also suggests some recommendations like enforcement of rules, additional enforcement powers, educating and enabling producers, campaigning against non-complaint producers, negative value e-waste and orphan products, which may curb e-waste.
(This article appears in the March 15, 2019 edition)
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