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Environment Ministry Allows E-waste Imports

Written By Gopal Krishna on Sunday, September 27, 2009 | 10:45 PM

Contrary to the objectives of the proposed 'E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules' put a complete ban on import of any kind of electronic and electrical equipment for dismantling, recycling and disposal purposes, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has allowed Attero Pvt Ltd, a private recycling company to import a huge amount of e-waste from the US and the UK. The company is allowed to import yearly 8,000 metric tones of e-waste—more than half of entire Delhi's yearly e-waste generation. Some 15 other 'formal' recyclers of e-waste are also seeking similar permission.

A study by Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) found that the amount of discarded electronics imported to India is growing 10 percent each year, with 95 percent of that headed toward urban slums for dis-assembly.

The total amount of India's e-waste imports is projected to reach 434,000 metric tons this year, and about 25,000 people in the country's slums will make up the bulk of the recycling industry there.

The study noted that there is almost no oversight or regulation for dismantling used electronics there, which contain toxic substances like lead, mercury and cadmium, and are often disassembled in environmentally and toxic ways.

India is close to finalizing the world's strictest set of rules on disposing of electronic waste. The rules are now being given the final touch by the ministry of environment and forests.

Under the new 'E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules', each manufacturer of a computer, music system, mobile phone or any other electronic gadget. This "personal" responsibility makes it the world's most stringent set of rules for e-waste disposal.

Eighteen electronic brands, including Nokia, Wipro, HCL, Acer and Sony Ericsson, have already begun implementing plans on toxic chemical phase-out and take-back of old end-of-life products in India.

The new set of rules, whose main objectives are:

* To address the specific requirements for e-waste management;
* To put in place an effective mechanism to regulate the generation, collection, storage, transportation, import and export of e-waste; and
* To ensure environmentally sound recycling of e-waste.

The proposed rules would provide enabling policies and procedures that would be legally binding for producers, collection agencies, dismantlers, recyclers, transporters, etc., handling e-waste.

The new rules take collection, storage and transportation of e-waste that are not hazardous out of the hazardous waste handling rules category.

The new set of rules makes a producer of electronic and electrical equipment responsible for the entire lifecycle of its products including end-of-life phase. The producer has the first level of responsibility of proper collection and recycling of discarded electronic and electrical products of its own brands in environmentally sound manner.

It also holds dealers, retailers and consumers responsible for proper and effective collection and recycling of the electronic waste. It will be the consumer's responsibility now to return a discarded electronic product to the designated collection centre.

Dealers are responsible for proper handling and storage of the e-waste. Except consumers, everyone in the value chain, including producers, have to take permission from a designated authority for handling, collection, transport, dismantling and material recovery of the e-waste.

The new rules also provide for the phase-out of certain hazardous chemicals from the electronic products launched in the Indian market. But for now Ministry's regressive stance stands exposed.
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