India Plans Laws on E-waste Management

The Indian government plans to enact new rules that makes a producer of electrical and electronic equipment responsible for the collection and appropriate disposal of e-waste generated at the end of life of its products.

The draft of the new rules, called the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2010, was made available for public comment on the Web site of the Ministry of Environment and Forests on Wednesday.

Under the draft rules, producers include manufacturers of products under their own brand, as well as those who sell under their brand products that are manufactured by contractors. Importers of products for sale in India are also included under the classification.

The proposed rules will also ban the import of used electrical and electronic equipment for charity in the country.

A lot of e-waste is brought into India under the pretext of being reused and donated to local charities, as the import of e-waste is otherwise restricted, Greenpeace campaigner Ramapati Kumar said on Thursday.

A number of social organizations and environmentalists have expressed concern that developed countries are dumping their e-waste in India, where it is recycled under hazardous and unregulated conditions.

The management and handling of waste in India is currently governed by legislation such as the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, and Hazardous Material (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules of 2008.

Current rules address mainly the handling and disposal of industrial waste generated in manufacturing, and do not take into account the e-waste generated by products like computers at the end of their lifecycle, said Vinnie Mehta, executive director of Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT), a trade body of the IT industry.

MAIT, Greenpeace, and other organizations have been pushing the government for the adoption of better e-waste rules.

The new rules proposed by the government attempt to regulate not only producers, but also recyclers and intermediaries such as operators of collection centers. Consumers are also required under the proposed rules to turn in end-of-life products for recycling.

MAIT is hoping the Indian government will subsidize some of the operations required to recycle products, in line with similar government incentives for environment-friendly programs.

The government may also have to pick up the cost for recycling of unbranded products which account for about 40 percent to 50 percent of electronics products sold in the country, Mehta said.

There will also be a lot of e-waste already in the market on the date the new rules come into force. The government calls it "historical waste", and MAIT expects that the government will help finance that part of the clean-up operation as well.

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