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India introduces first e-waste laws

India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) is to place legal liability for reducing and recycling electronic waste with producers for the first time under the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2011. The rules, which form part of the Environment Protection Act, will come into effect from 1 May 2012.

Manufacturers and importers of computers, mobile phones and white goods will be required to come up with e-waste collection centres or introduce ‘take back’ systems. ‘These rules will apply to every producer, consumer and bulk consumer involved in manufacture, sale, purchase and processing of electronic equipment or components,’ an environment ministry official told India newspaper Business Standard. The ministry is granting a one-year grace period for collection centres to be to set up.

India currently generates 400,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, of which only 19,000 tonnes is recycled, according to manufacturers’ association Mait.

It believes around 40% of obsolete electronic products sit unused at home or in warehouses, as people do not know what to do with them and there is no systematic mechanism for dispose of them.

Under the new rules, producers will have to issue consumers with information on disposing of equipment after use to prevent e-waste from being dropped in domestic waste, and must make the public aware of the hazardous components present.

Commercial consumers and government departments will become responsible for recycling the e-waste they generate, channeling it to authorised collection centres or ensuring it is taken back by suppliers. They will have to maintain e-waste records and make these available to state Pollution Control Boards or other authorities.

NGO Greenpeace India welcomes the transition from the current out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to proper recycling, but claimed the new legislation ‘fails to provide safeguards’ against the import and export of e-waste.

A provisional rule drafted by the Ministry last year included a ban on import of second-hand electronic equipment for charity or other re-use – much of which passed into the hands of informal recyclers. This clause has been removed from the final rule.

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