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"E-waste recycling rules notified on May 1, no infrastructure in place even now"

Source: Times of India, Date: June , 2012

NEW DELHI: It is now mandatory for consumers to hand over electronic waste to designated collectors for proper disposal while it is equally essential for producers, under the extended producer responsibility (EPR) to take back e-waste for recycling. The rule came into play on May 1 but Delhi, one of the biggest producers of e-waste in the country and the biggest recycling hub, is yet to put a collection mechanism in place.

The E-waste Management and Handling Rules were notified in May 2011 and the government gave states one year to set up a collection and disposal mechanism in place. Those caught violating the rules are punishable under the Environment Protection Act with a maximum sentence of seven years and/or a fine of Rs 1 lakh.

Delhi government has spent the past year sensitizing bulk users about the rules, most of which have tied up with authorized e-waste recyclers. However, individual consumers not only are completely unaware of the new rules but have also not been provided with any facility for disposal of e-waste. "It will take about 2-3 years to bring about awareness among people. So far we have targeted bulk consumers and have come out with a public notice about the implementation of the rules. In the next phase, a meeting with manufacturers will be set up to stress on the EPR and work on sensitizing individual consumers will start," said a senior official.

Delhi produces about 32 tonnes per day of e-waste but imports about twice as much from other states for recycling. Very little of this actually reaches landfill sites. Some of it is picked up by authorized recyclers but a large part of the e-waste is dismantled in informal set-ups, leaving people and the environment open to hazardous pollutants from the melting down of wires, plastics etc. Delhi-based NGO Toxics Link says that in absence of any target or accountability check, the new rules may not be able to change much on ground.

Satish Sinha, associate director of Toxics Link says: "There is no information on collection centers and collection points. Brands may just get away by setting up only symbolic collection systems as the rules do not specify number of collection points or amount of collection. They have also not announced any financial mechanism or incentives as well for the consumers to attract them to the new eco-friendly system."

Bharti Chaturvedi, director of NGO Chintan which has set up a collection center on GT Karnal Road says that collection itself is a highly expensive process and there is still no clarity on who is going to foot the bill. She says: "The ragpickers associated with Chintan will start collection of e-waste in those areas and from those companies with whom they are already working. However, recycling of some goods like refrigerators and microwave ovens is just too expensive and not cost effective. Manufacturers need to take on this work and make massive investments in generating awareness."

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