Responsible recyling of e-waste and CSR
In recent years it has been acknowledged that the global electronics supply chain needs to be more proactive in the reduction and management of e-waste. Data from the United Nations supports the urgent regulation of e-waste, due to significant burden on the environmental and health aspects of developing nations.
Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013 passed by the Parliament of India, requires companies to spend 2% of their net profit on socially responsible projects, if they have a net worth of over rupees 500 crore, or a turnover of over rupees 1,000 crore, or a net profit over rupees 5 crore. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1986, the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011 (effective 2012) were laid down to enable recovery and/or reuse of useful material from e-waste, to reduce the hazardous wastes destined for disposal, to ensure the environmentally sound management of all types of e-waste and to address the safe and environment friendly handling, transporting, storing, and recycling of e-waste. For the first time, the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) was introduced which made manufacturers liable for safe disposal of electronic goods.
The E-Waste (Management) Rules, 2016 were enacted to bring a manufacturer, dealer, refurbisher and Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) under the ambit of these Rules. PRO is a professional organization authorized or financed collectively or individually by producers, which can take the responsibility for collection and channelization of e-waste generated from their products to ensure environmentally sound management. This includes components, consumables, parts and spares of EEE (electronic and electrical equipment). A portion of corporate social responsibility rests on the effective reduction of e-waste from the manufacturers’ end. The legislation also highlights ‘ensuring environmental sustainability’ in its definition of activities that meet the CSR requirement. Today, most e-waste recycling is relegated to the unorganized sector where cheap labour is hired to work in hazardous conditions using rudimentary methods of collection and disposal. This involves severe health risks, labour rights violations including hiring child labour, and dangerous environmental concerns.
According to rules laid out and appropriate penalties assigned, waste-collection targets need to be implemented by companies at rates prescribed at 30-70%. Subsequent amendments have been made to achieve these targets. It is suggested that the targets are phased to make them more manageable.
A collaborative effort by industries, pollution control boards and local implementation authorities is needed for the exercise to bear fruit.