Addressing challenges in creating a sustainable mechanism for solving India’s e-waste problem

The Indian Cellular Association (ICA), International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and Karo Sambhav, a tech-enabled and socially responsible e-waste Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO), brought together multiple stakeholder groups to discuss and debate on the need for a responsible and organized e-waste management system in India. They organized an interactive workshop to facilitate panel discussions and consultation sessions around certain key issues in implementing the existing 2017 notification of the E-waste (Management) Rules 2016 that relaxed norms related to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

The objective of the workshop titled, “Solving India’s E-Waste Problem”, was to understand the role of different stakeholders in the effective implementation of India’s e-waste legislation. The workshop, which is a part of IFC’s India e-waste programme, provided an overview of international e-waste best practices and an in-depth understanding of the entire process of e-waste collection, from the point of enrollment to the delivery of e-waste to the recycler, in order to achieve related targets.

Sharing his views on some of the best practices followed globally, Dr. Bernd Kopacek, International E-waste Specialist, International Finance Corporation, IFC said, “India is not unlike some Eastern European countries who in the past have had a sector which was 90% informal like India’s is today. With the right scale, investment and enforcement of legislation e-waste is a sector that can not only self sustain but also drive growth and income. Europe was able to create 130,000 jobs and I see similar potential in India.”

Underlining the importance of the workshop, Sarina Bolla, Operations Officer, SME & Value Chains Solutions, International Finance Corporation said, “IFC’s India E-Waste Programme focuses on addressing key challenges in the sector such as awareness and capacity building with the goal of developing a sustainable ecosystem that will attract investment and ensure the growth of the sector. Enforcement of regulation is a critical prerequisite for this growth.”

Sharing his views, Mr. Pankaj Mohindroo, Chairman - Fast Track Task Force & National President - Indian Cellular Association (ICA), “Apart from working towards achievable EPR targets, GOI should also focus towards developing infrastructure in e-waste processing. Government needs to sensitize the public and even target the phycological behavior regarding e-waste disposal.”

The goal of these sessions was to answer questions that centered around the existing e-waste rules by covering aspects like: compliance mechanisms for producers, importance of extended producer responsibility (EPR), role of producers in improving e-waste recycling standards in India, importance of a Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) in strengthening the producers' role and finally, possible areas of collaboration areas wherein the government and producers can work together for improved implementation of the e-waste rules.

Pranshu Singhal, Founder, Karo Sambhav explaining various ways on achieving collection targets said, Solutions in the sector are possible today more than ever before. Producers are becoming conscious and willing to make investments in enabling solutions. Karo Sambhav came about because of the initiative of Apple, Dell, HP and Lenovo. The regulations are also in place and the ecosystem is also developing. What is needed is for all stakeholders to acknowledge the need of working together and come up with collaborative solutions.

The resolution of India’s e-waste problem requires bringing together the specific experiences and inputs of different stakeholders in a coordinated manner. Thus, key dignitaries who participated in the dialogue were Dr. Sandeep Chatterjee Director and Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY), Dr. Bernd Kopacek, International E-waste Specialist, International Finance Corporation, Mr. Ramesh Vaswani Director & Advisor – Corporate Affairs, Intex, Mr. Pankaj Mohindroo, Chairman - Fast Track Task Force & National President - Indian Cellular Association (ICA) Ms. Sarina Bolla, Operations Officer, SME & Value Chains Solutions, International Finance Corporation and Mr. Pranshu Singhal, Founder, Karo Sambhav.

In connection with this, crucial issues like documentation, logistics, packaging, warehousing, weighing, invoicing, insurances-fire/pilferage/taxation/GST and risk mapping were discussed. The workshop also included a consultation session for health check-up on e-waste compliance for the participating members.

Addressing the underlying challenges to responsible e-waste recycling via appropriate capacity building, knowledge transfer and awareness creation is a key step towards the creation of a formalized e-waste market.