Integration of informal sector with skill development, EPR implementation and reverse logistics backbone are the key requirements.

The E-Waste Management Rules, 2016 were recently notified in supersession of the E-waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 2011, seeking to effectively address the problem of e-waste in the country.

In this context, ET, in association with Eco Recycling Limited (Ecoreco), is organising a series of closed door round table discussions on `E-Waste Management'.The inaugural session was held on May 25 and was moderated by Ravi Agarwal, founder director, Toxics Link, which is also the knowlegde partner for the event.

In a video message, union minister for environment, forests and climate change, Prakash Javadekar said, “Let us understand first that e-waste generation in the future will grow at a very fast pace. All this waste is going into unorganised markets and after taking out the precious metals, it is left for leeching and that is causing pollution in our country. The question of enforcement is very important. We have given this time responsibility to waste generators, extended producer responsibility and if they have to do business in India, they will have to follow the norms. I am sure the corporate world will take up the responsibility like they do in other countries“.

Government Resolve

In her keynote address, Dr Aruna Sharma, secretary, Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), spoke about the importance of managing the end-of-lifecycle of electronic goods as well as increasing awareness among the masses.

In the same vein, Dr Shruti Bhardwaj, joint director, MoEF, gave a brief overview of the new legislation and highlighted the fact that, “We have given room to the producers to ensure that they are able to implement it.The collection targets have been fixed and options has been introduced in the legislation to ensure flexibility for Producers to meet the targets.“

According to CPCB additional director, Anand Kumar, “CPCB has been interested to come out with a guideline as to how to calculate estimated generation by the producers. Second is the ROHS verification guidelines along with guidelines for dismantlers and recyclers...end of July, all the guidelines (should be) readily available for all the concerned stakeholders“.

Health Effects

Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of PHFI, spoke about the health effects of toxic exposure, especially among children. “Impact on children who are particularly visible in the informal sector as the gatherers is going to be quite severe indeed because compared to the body weight, the level of exposure is much higher than for an adult.“

Aditya Bhatnagar, director of the Ecoreco Enviro Education, said, “What would help a lot is really good case studies which are data based, which can show that `look if you are working in this environment, this is what happens'.“

Attrition Issues

Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE, said, “Though the law does not recognize the informal sector, the fact is in all sector of the economy, informal sector is a reality and so is the case with e-waste man agement.“ He argued in favour of bringing the informal sector into the formal channels, which was mirrored by Dr Rachna Sharma, Senior Technical Advisor with GIZ, BK Soni, chairman of Ecoreco and Rubaab Sood, additional director, FICCI, during the discussion.

Ashish Khanna, representing CII, showed some ap prehension about the 30% target and Pankaj Mohindroo, national president of ICA, was quite cynical as to the implementation of the rules, citing pragmatic realities.

Innovative Solutions

Addressing the problem of alienation of the informal circles, Dr Aruna Sharma suggested the creation of cooperatives which can enable them to enter the formal sphere, with NGOs and industry working in tandem. She said, “We can have a cooperative of the informal sector based on some formulae which maybe evolved.“

Anwar Shirpurwala, executive director of MAIT, assured the gathering that talks are ongoing to set up a producer responsibility organisation (PRO). He further added, “I think setting up of a PRO, the awareness programme and the creation of a business model which will get the informal on board, these three things will definitely change the dynamics of how implementation will be done.“

Shrikant Sinha, CEO, NASSCOM Foundation, spoke of their Big Bridge Programme which seeks to refurbish old computers and donate them to NGOs.Abhishek Sahay, senior assistant director, FICCI recommended crowdsourcing technology solutions for ewaste management and disposal.

B K Soni of Ecoreco spoke about the need to promote skilling in the informal sector and gave the example of his own organisation. Working with the financial backing of the NSDC and skilled waste managers will be the extended opportunity by Ecoreco to run collection centres as an entrepreneur. To facilitate smaller collection and create awareness, Ecoreco has already set up `Eco-Bins' at key locations. Dr Debashis Dutta, group coordinator with DeitY, simply added, “If you see how things are processed in the western world, the copper ore and e-waste are treated similarly, so here also we can do something like that. That will scale it up.“

The Way Forward

Closing the discussion, Ravi Agarwal said, “This is a transition issue. One is because it has serious environmental and health concerns. All cost varies around this idea which is unaccounted for. Second big issue is about resource is not only about burdening the industry but about how the economy is going to run and not in the far future, in the next ten years.“

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