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Issue 37
, 2012
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Indian IT Companies Ignore New E-waste Collection Law

Aditya Kelekar
Source: CIO.IN, Date: , 2012

The E-Waste (Management and Handling Rules) 2010, which became law last month, makes it mandatory for hardware manufacturers to facilitate e-waste collection. But with lax implementation, most manufacturers haven't bothered to take the necessary remedial steps.

 “Not in my backyard,” That, in short, has been howIndiahas dealt with its e-waste problem for years. If one goes down to the dirty details, the story is about mountains of unsegregated rubbish, and small-time dismantlers from the informal “recycling channel” trying to separate the useful parts from the rest while facing grave risk to their health.

 There was hope that a law on efficient management of e-waste would provide manufacturers the motivation they needed to organize an e-waste collection channel, as also provide government with the necessary teeth to catch the defaulters.
 It was in this spirit that the E-Waste law had been notified last May, heralding the end of the era when e-waste recycling efforts were considered largesse on the part of the manufacturer. The law now places the onus squarely on manufacturers to ensure collection of e-waste generated from the “end of life” of their products in line with the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility and to ensure that such e-waste are channelized to registered dismantlers or recyclers.

 But one month since the E-Waste (Management and Handling Rules) 2010 has come into force, the law has shown itself to be a toothless tiger. This World Environment Day (June 5), when we checked with recyclers on what has been the effect of the law, we found that the e-waste collection figures showed no increase.

 “There is confusion among manufacturers regarding the implementation of the law,” says Rohan Gupta, CEO and founder at Attero Recycling, one of the leading recyclers in the country. He doesn't expect shipment of e-waste to go up for another six months at least. The government, too, has not set any targets that the manufacturers should achieve.

 However, Satish Sinha, Associate Director at Toxics Link, a Delhi-based NGO is more blunt: “I don't think the hardware companies have done enough.” He feels that most manufacturers have not even taken the effort to put in place a collection system or mechanism in place. “One year has been lost.”

 Among the few hardware manufacturers that have a good e-waste collection track record is Wipro. Since the time that it introduced the take-back program in 2007, it has improved and matured its process for take-back and safe processing. In FY 2010-11, a total of 260.43 tons of e-waste — more than 150 percent compared to the previous year — was collected from its 17 collection centers acrossIndiaand disposed through its network of certified partners.

 Thought Wipro played an important role in being part of the committee that helped draft the e-waste regulation, Narayan P S, VP and head of sustainability at Wipro, says their sustainability drive has had little to do with the law coming into force. “We didn't need the push of regulation to start our recycling efforts,” he says.

 Clearly it is the lack of detail on how the law should be implemented and monitored that has invited much criticism.

Guidelines are now being worked out by the government and concerned stakeholders that will specify a manufacturer's liability with regard to ensuring that a minimum amount (a percentage of sales volumes) of e-waste has been collected. “Only when such targets are set and the progress measured will we have a meaningful way of finding out whether the law has been effective or not,” says Attero's Gupta.