The E – waste Crisi in India, An analysis of the E-waste Management Rules, 2016 & 2022.

The Issue

The current challenge faced by not only India but across the globe is not something new, the issue of e-waste disposal has been around since the 1970’s. The problem of e-waste disposal began with the era of technological advancements, due to the Human tendency to Purchase and have access to the latest technology has led to over consumption of electronic gadgets and production of more e-waste yearly.

For example, People rush to buy the latest Iphones due to its new advancements made by Apple every year. due to which the amount of e-waste discarded every day is outpacing the capabilities of humans to recycle these e-wastes produced.

As per the UN report, it was estimated that around 62 billion KG of e-waste was produced across the world in the year 2022, and e-waste production is estimated to rise up to 82 billion KG by the year 2030.[1] The reports further state that “the only & easiest way to prevent more e-waste is by not generating more.” Which speaks a lot about the tendency of humans to over consume electronics to make their lives easier.

In the 1990’s when computers began becoming more popular for other functions such as surfing the Internet and in the early 2000’s when the Iphones were introduced people never expected that there would be any consequences by consuming these products, since there was little to no awareness about the toxic elements contained in these products.

On the surface these gadgets may look safe, but upon closer inspection one might find the toxic elements such as “beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead, which pose serious environmental risks to our soil, water, air, and wildlife.”[2]

In India nearly 1.6 million tonnes of e-waste was generated in FY 22 and Haryana is known to be the biggest contributor to the e-waste that was collected and processed, out the 527,131 Tonnes of e-waste produced in India half of it is estimated to be from the state of Haryana, followed by other states such as Uttarakhand and Telangana being the next biggest contributors.[3]

What is E-waste & why are they Dangerous?

The term “E-waste” is used to refer to the waste that is the product of electronic gadgets that are disposed of, upon becoming unwanted, nonfunctional or reaching the end of their “useful life”. Everyday household items as well as other gadgets can be categorized E-waste. These products range from Mobile phones to kitchen appliances, to be more specific one can refer to Scheule I of the Rules wherein all the equipment’s covered under the rules are mentioned.[4] E-waste has been defined in the “E-waste management Rules, 2022” (herein after the Rules) under Rules 3 (l) as any electrical or electronic equipment that is discarded.

E-waste itself is particularly harmful due the toxic elements it contains, since there is efficient way to dispose of e-waste, when e-waste gets dumped in landfills, they tend to enter the ground through a process known as leaching. In this process e-waste dissolves into the sludges at the landfills and then these toxic materials slowly enter the ground below, causing the Soil as well as the ground water to be contaminated.

The issue doesn’t stop here the toxic elements continue to contaminate the near by freshwater sources around the dumps, and when consumed by the wildlife around the water source the wild animals tend to be poisoned or becoming sick due to high traces of lead, metals, cadmium which also disrupts their natural habitat. Other than Lead, Cadmium, e-waste also contains substances known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) which pose a great threat to the immune system of Humans & wildlife.

The E-waste Management Rules, 2016.

Initially the Government of India took a step in the right direction trying to tackle & mitigate the dangers of e-waste by enforcing the Rules of 2016. Although it had some gaps and lacked efficient management & clarity, it was a step in the right direction. It also failed to place appropriate burden on the Producers, manufacturers and other concerned entities.

Furthermore, the 2016 Rules had no penal provisions for the Violation or breach of the rules by the producers, manufacturers or bulk consumers, the penalty for the violation/ breach was done by referring to the Environment Protection Act,[5] although it did describe the roles and duties of the dismantlers, manufacturers, and recyclers, it did not appropriately penalize them or deter them from illegally carrying out recycling activities.

The E-waste Management Rules, 2022

The most recent amendment to the rules were brought in 2022, which replaced the 2016 rules to address the growing concern of e-waste in India. The 2022 rules have broadened the scope of what come under the ambit of e-waste, it was amended to include solar panels & cells under its ambit as well. The lack of classification of electronic equipment under the 2016 rules, which only included 21 types of electrical and electronic items did not yield the expected results, which is why the recent amendment brought in various classifications of more than 100 types of electronic and electrical equipment.

Moreover, the responsibilities of the “bulk consumer” under the 2022 rules, have been eased in comparison to the 2016 rules wherein the bulk consumers were mandated to provide a channel for e-waste through collection centres. whereas, now the bulk consumer is only subjected to handover the e-waste produced to the authorised/ concerned recyclers, producers etc. this essentially reduced the burden of maintaining records or submitting annual records.

Now the 2022 rules, more strictly regulate manufacturers, producers, dismantlers, refurbishes & so on excluding other categories such as dealers, consumers & e-retailers. Further, under the 2016 rules Producers were required to obtain licenses from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)[6] & other’s such as manufacturers, recyclers, dismantlers & so on were required to obtain licenses from the concerned state pollution control board (SPCB).[7] Now, under the 2022 rules all the concerned entities are required to approach the CPCB’s website & register themselves.[8]

The 2022 rules provide more clarity to the aspect of who may or may not operate, the 2022 rules strictly clarify that no entity can operate without registering or deal with any unregistered entity. Whereas previously it was stated that the Manufacturers, producers, dismantlers & so on had the responsibility to register and maintain records with the concerned SPCB’s & the CPCB for scrutiny.

How does the 2022 Rules aim to combat the e-waste crisis in India?

With the enforcement of the 2022 rules, the concept of Extended producer Liability (EPR) was further developed upon by setting of higher targets, which was previously lower in the 2016 rules. This was done in order to meet India’s sustainable development goals (SDG’s) of 2030. “Sustainability” which is a term first defined by the Brundtland Report in the year 1987 is reffered to as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” [9]

[Image Sources: Shutterstock]

E waste

The 2022 rules were a major step towards achieving the sustainable goals of India by promoting EPR the rules, aim to ensure environmentally sound management of e-waste. Under the EPR producers who are engaged in the process of assembling, selling, and manufacturing are mandated to provide channels to registered recyclers. Further, the rules place an enormous responsibility on them to fulfil their obligations by achieving their targets as mentioned in the Schedule III & IV through registered e-waste recyclers.[10]

 The 2016 rules failed to succeed where the 2022 rules brought in new change, previously under the 2016 rules Producers were required to submit their “EPR plans” to the CPCB, which highlights the actions that would be taken by the producers in achieving the target collection of e-waste only after which the producers were allowed to set up collection centre’s and recycle the waste or enter into agreements with 3rd parties. Since there was no detailed mechanism in the 2016 rules the 2022 rules amended the lacuna in the previous rules.

However there has been a differed approach taken in the 2022 rules, the new rules require the producers to obtain EPR certificates from the registered recyclers, this also prevent the malpractices which could be carried out previously due to the loopholes. The producers are also required to submit their certificates quarterly on the CPCB website. Furthermore, in order to keep a check on the amount of waste recycled, a certificate is issued based on the volume of covered items under the rules that are recycled.

My mandating such measured the CPCB and the Central Government can clearly monitor the recycling process as well as over look that the set targets are achieved by the producers in India, this also makes the process less prone to malpractices since the recyclers are also registered entities who issue the certificates to the producers based on their collection. The producers’ targets can be only met by the way these certificates. Further, not meeting the targets by the producers, they are liable to compensate under the EPA, 1986.

Another significant change brought in by the 2022 rules are the penalties under the rules, unlike the 2016 rules, the 2022 rules have broadened the scope of penalizing any aid & abetment in the violation of the rules as an offence as well.

Conclusion

The 2022 rules are a major step towards tackling & mitigating the issue of e-waste mismanagement in India and moving towards an eco-friendlier environment. E – waste if not addressed immediately and handled appropriately may leave devastating impact on our planet, of which the consequences may be hard to recover from. The new 2022 Rules have replaced the 2016 rules and address the gaps which were present previously, by moving towards a more registration format rather granting/ authorizing entities. The government has made the process of e-waste management more efficient, additionally the government is monitoring the entire process more carefully by placing additional duties on the Producers, manufacturers, recyclers, dismantlers & other entities. Overall, these amendments are necessary for India in achieving its SDG’s 2030, and moving towards a cleaner and healthier environment which is every citizen’s fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Author: K. N. Rahul, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to chhavi@khuranaandkhurana.com or at  Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.

[1] Baldé, C.P., Forti, V., Gray, V., Kuehr, R. and Stegmann, P., 2017. The global e-waste monitor. United Nations University (UNU), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) & International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Bonn/Geneva/Vienna, pp.1-109.

[2] Widmer, R., Oswald-Krapf, H., Sinha-Khetriwal, D., Schnellmann, M. and Böni, H., 2005. Global perspectives on e-waste. Environmental impact assessment review25(5), pp.436-458.

[3] BS Web TeamIndia collected 527,131 tonne e-waste in FY22, half of it from Haryana” Business Standard, New Delhi July 20, 2023.

[4] Schedule I of E-waste Management Rules, 2022.

[5] EPA, 1986.

[6] E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016, rule 13(1).

[7] E-Waste (Management) Rules 2016, rules 13(2), (3) and (4)

[8] E-Waste (Management) Rules 2022, rule 4(1).

[9]“Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future”, 1987 United Nations. p. 16.

[10] Schedule III & IV of the E-waste Management Rules, 2022.

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