India boosts green credentials with new e-waste rules

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The E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, came into force on 1 May. The rules apply to all producers, consumers or bulk consumers involved in the manufacture, sale, purchase and processing of electrical and electronic equipment or components, collection centres, dismantlers and recyclers of electrical and electronic waste.

The rules do not apply to micro and small enterprises as defined under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006, or to batteries and radio waste, which are covered by separate regulations.

Responsibilities

Chapter II of the E-Waste Rules lays down the responsibilities of producers, collection centres, consumers, dismantlers and recyclers.

Green_recycle_computerThe term “producer” applies to sellers of assembled equipment under their own brands and sellers of imported equipment, as well as to manufacturers. Their responsibilities include collecting e-waste generated during manufacture and arranging for its recycling or disposal, collecting e-waste generated from the end of life of their products and ensuring that such waste is sent to a registered dismantler or recycler.

The E-Waste Rules have introduced the concept of “extended producer responsibility”, which means producers are responsible for the environmentally sound management of their products after the products have reached the end of their life. This includes an obligation to deal with “historical waste”, which is e-waste already available on or before 1 May.

Producers are also responsible for setting up collection centres or take-back systems, either individually or collectively, providing consumers with contact details of authorized e-waste collection centres, maintaining records, and creating awareness about environmentally sound management of e-waste.

Producers have two years to ensure that new electrical or electronic equipment does not contain lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls or polybrominated diphenyl ethers beyond a specified level. A list of 39 items which have been exempted from this requirement can be found in schedule II of the rules.

Collection centres

Collection centres must ensure that the e-waste collected is stored in a secure manner until it is sent to a registered dismantler or recycler, so that no environmental damage is caused during storage and transportation. They must also obtain authorization, file annual returns and maintain records of e-waste handled.

Consumer or bulk consumer

Bulk consumers must maintain records of the e-waste they generate. All consumers must ensure that the e-waste they generate is sent to authorized collection centres, registered dismantlers or recyclers, or is returned to the take-back services provided by producers.

Dismantlers

Dismantlers that want to process e-waste must be authorized and registered by a state pollution control board. They must also ensure that dismantling, storage and transportation cause no environmental damage. All non-recyclable components must be sent to authorized treatment storage and disposal facilities.

Recyclers

All recyclers must obtain authorization and registration from a state pollution control board. They must file annual returns, make available all records of e-waste to the central or a state pollution control board, and ensure that their facilities and recycling processes conform to standards laid down in the guidelines published by the Central Pollution Control Board. The residue they generate must be disposed of in a hazardous waste treatment storage disposal facility.

Registration

Chapter III deals with the procedure for seeking authorization and registration for handling e-waste.

Every producer must obtain authorization from a state pollution control board by 1 August. A recycler of e-waste that has not been authorized under provisions of the Hazardous Wastes (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movements) Rules, 2008, also requires authorization from the state pollution control board or union territory pollution control committee concerned. Dismantlers and recyclers should also apply to register with a state pollution control board by 1 August.

Penalties

Those who fail to comply with the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, the E-Waste Rules, or orders or directions issued under them, could be imprisoned for up to five years and/or fined up to ₹100,000 (US$1,850). An additional fine of up to ₹5,000 could be levied for each day that non-compliance continues after the first conviction.

If a person flouts the rules beyond a period of one year after the first offence, they could be imprisoned for up to seven years.

The legislative and regulatory update is compiled by Nishith Desai Associates, a Mumbai-based law firm. The authors can be contacted at [email protected] Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.