The Electronics and IT sector is one of the fastest growing sector of India, with a total size of $ 69.6 Billion in FY 12 (India Brand Equity Foundation, 2013). With rising domestic purchasing power and reduction in electronics goods worldwide, the sector is estimated to touch $ 400 Billion in market size and employ 28 Million people by 2020 in India. The sector also contributes significantly to India’s exports, leading to $ 8.9 Billion revenue generation in 2012. The high demand for ICT and CE goods has led to creation of manufacturing clusters all over India, with both global majors and indigenous SMEs playing a significant role (NSDC, 2009). The total production for the Electronic System Design & Manufacturing industry stood at $ 32.7 B in FY 2013 (IBEF, 2013).
This rapid sectorial growth, coupled with constant product innovation is leading to high product obsolescence. This is resulting in generation of large quantities of electronic waste (e-waste) in India, leading to 4 lakh tonne waste annually. Most of this waste, which is toxic in nature due to presence of chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and certain brominated flame retardants (BFRs), lands up in the informal sector, where it is recycled without paying any heed to safety and environment. Apart from endangering workers’ health and surrounding biodiversity, these practices also prevent extraction of valuable non-renewable materials from electronic items. To control the situation, Government of India has introduced the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, which is based on ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ (EPR) principles. The policy came into effect in May 2012, and a One-year timeframe was provided to the producers, to establish infrastructure and processes for take back programme and channelizing of e-waste for further utilization. Unfortunately, there is not much progress on this take-back program (Toxics Link, retrieved 2nd April 2015)
Sector driven recycling standards can go a long way in mitigating these issues. Apart from streamlining and formalizing recycling sector, these standards can also enable suitable infrastructural mechanisms which will ensure that materials reach the right recyclers, resulting in suitable disposal and extraction of valuable materials. With the Make in India programme, Government of India is emphasizing on self-regulation by corporates, providing further encouragement for a sector wide collaborative on institutionalizing voluntary standards for e-waste disposal.
To discuss these issues further and chart a way forward, Centre for Responsible Business (CRB) in collaboration with ISEAL Alliance, UK, is organizing a webinar on the topic ‘E-waste management in ICT/CE sector – Is self-regulation the way forward?’. The webinar will bring together a panel comprising leaders from companies, industry associations, standards and civil society organizations to share their experiences and discuss the role of various stakeholders can participate in formulating suitable industry wide standards and mechanisms for implementing them. The 90 minute webinar will be organized on 15th April 2015, and will start at 10:30 pm (GMT). Hope to see you there!