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Issue 36
, 2012
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Rules for e-waste ignored in state

Lois Kapila & Chandan Prasad
Source: The Statesman, Date: , 2012

KOLKATA, 10 MAY: A lack of awareness of the e-waste rules which came into effect on 1 May, and concerns about the cost of implementation, has meant that many electronics producers are not following them.   

The E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 were notified on 12 May 2011. But electronics goods producers and government departments were given a year's grace before they came into effect on 1 May 2012, so they could prepare.   

As the Union Minister for Forests and the Environment, Ms Jayanthi Natarjan, told the Lok Sabha on 7 May, under the rules electronics producers are responsible for the collection of the piles of e-waste generated when products they have sold come to the end of their life. The producers are supposed to set up collection centres and make available the address and contact details to get the old products back. The products are then supposed to be sent to registered dismantlers and re-cyclers.   

But there are still no collection centres in Kolkata, even if environmentally conscious consumers do want to make sure their old laptops and phones don't end up in municipal dumps.   

“There are no such centres in Kolkata right now,” said Mr Priyam Sengupta, deputy director of the Manufacturers’ Association for Information Technology (MAIT). One of the reasons for this, he said, is the additional costs which electronics producers would have to bear if they comply with the rules. But the other, he said, is that nobody knows what they are supposed to do.   

“The policy has come up from 1 May,” Mr Sengupta said. “At the moment, there is a huge ignorance among the people, and those concerned.” He is organising a seminar in mid-May so that producers and major consumers, like banks, can learn about the new rules.   
Mr Sengupta also said that while producers of electronic goods have certain responsibilities under the new rules, “the consumers are actually having some responsibility for disposing of these also.” Consumers have to make sure they take the products to collection centres, and bulk consumers have to keep records of where they have sent their old electronics.   

According to the Union minister, the state pollution control boards can penalise companies under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, if they are found to be violating the rules. Mr Sengupta said it is not clear what form these penalties will take yet: “There will be some penalties. It is not very clearly written in the policy documents.”
At the moment, most of the used-up electronics products are collected by kabadiwalas, and dismantled in informal sector hubs by unregistered businesses, said Mr Rajeev Betne from non-governmental organisation Toxics Link. The toxic materials like lead and mercury in old electronics are often not dealt with appropriately, he said, risking occupational health problems and environmental damage.