The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has published the draft E-Waste (Management) Rules (“draft E-waste Rules”) meant to revamp the regulatory framework for managing electronic waste (e-waste) in India. The proposed Rules may not be drastically different from the existing ones but they are a clear improvement meant to ensure better compliance by providing further clarity on various aspects of e-waste management. The recent Union Budget had a considerable focus on circular economy wherein it was mentioned that the transition towards circular economy will help productivity enhancement as well as creating large opportunities for new businesses and jobs. It provided that the action plan for ten sectors had already been prepared and the focus would be on addressing important cross cutting issues of infrastructure, reverse logistics, technology upgradation and integration with the informal sector. The Budget also mentioned that it would all be supported by active public policies covering regulations, extended producers’ responsibilities framework and innovation facilitation.
The draft E-waste Rules clearly seem to be a step towards achieving the circular economy goals highlighted in the Union Budget. The draft Rules provide an exhaustive list of items which fall in the category of e-waste and therefore would be covered under these Rules. Since 2016 when the Rules were first notified, multiple clarifications were required by various stakeholders to ascertain the scope, applicability and compliance procedure under the given Rules. The draft E-waste Rules have provided clarity on these aspects besides also streamlining the list of items the applications for which would be exempted from the restrictions pertaining to use of hazardous items. To provide further clarity, the stakeholders who require registration on the centralized portal of CPCB have been enlisted.
In India the challenge has always been waste collection and segregation and unfortunately, to a large extent we still rely on the informal sector for waste collection, despite there being a significant increase in the number of technologically advanced waste management companies. The draft E-waste Rules highlight the importance of urban local bodies (ULBs) in not just collection and segregation but in also facilitating the establishment of waste collection, segregation and disposal systems and conducting training sessions to develop their capacities as they operate at the local level, be it urban or rural areas, thus playing a crucial role. We need to figure out ways for better involvement and integration of the informal sector so that it not just helps improve the health and safety of those involved but it also helps create a trained work force which will help our country meet its circular economy goals.
An important change in the proposed draft is the introduction of 80% collection target in the eighth year and thereafter unlike the earlier Rules where after the seventh year the target was fixed at 70%. The importers will have to meet 100% collection target as per the extended producer responsibility (EPR) requirements under the proposed Rules after the end of life of the product, if it is not exported thereafter. This highlights the intent to ensure maximum possible collection and recycling by the concerned stakeholders for domestic as well as imported items. With the pandemic having ensured increased reliance on computers and electronic gadgets due to the virtual mode of working, it is pertinent that the increase in e-waste generation is appropriately handled.
The most innovative concept being introduced through the proposed Rules is that of the EPR certificates for recycling and refurbishing. The EPR Certificates will not only help in verifying that the EPR targets have actually been met by the concerned stakeholder but it will also help those lagging behind in meeting their targets purchase EPR certificates from others to meet their targets temporarily. The certificates will be valid for two years from the end of the financial year in which they were generated unless utilized earlier. This innovative concept similar to carbon trading will also help incentivize compliance, penalize non-compliance and most importantly maintain records of it all.
These proposed changes provide a great opportunity for companies operating in this sector or are planning to enter this sector. The startups operating in this sector could bring the best international practices in waste management to India and manage waste efficiently and in an environment-friendly manner by not just meeting the statutory targets but also exceeding them. The focus on circular economy by the Government presents a great business opportunity which will not just help manage our waste but will also assist in conserving our resources and protecting this planet.
This article was originally published in The times of India on 25 June 2022 Written by: Nawneet Vibhaw, Partner. Click here for original article
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