Make producers responsible for India’s e-waste crisis: expert

Press release - August 20, 2007
NEW DELHI, India — This morning, Greenpeace activists knocked on the door of the Ministry of Information Technology, presenting it with a giant art installation of the globe in the clutches of hazardous e-waste – a reminder of the enormity of the e-waste challenge. With a solution-oriented approach, Greenpeace presented the Ministry a report titled ‘Extended Producer Responsibility in a non-OECD context’ (1). New regulatory legislation that is based on EPR will nip the growing e-waste crisis in the bud. EPR (2) is a principle that makes brand owners responsible for the entire life cycle of their products, while fostering the ability of Indian IT industries to compete globally.

Greenpeace activists at the Ministry of Information Technology with a giant art installation of the planet in the clutches of electronic waste. Greenpeace also presented the Ministry with a report on ‘Extended Producer Responsibility in a non-OECD context’ which can be used as a basis for legislation to tackle the growing problem of e-waste.

An Electronic Association of India projection says that the amount of e-waste generated in India would increase 11 fold from the current 1,46,000 tons per annum to 16,00,000 tons per annum by 2012. Due to the presence of harmful chemicals in computers and electronic products, this growth is confronting India with an environmental and public health nightmare. Greenpeace has discovered scientific evidence of widespread worker and community exposure to toxic chemicals from e-waste (3).

"This is not just an issue of environmental protection. If the Ministry of IT truly wants the Indian industry to be globally competitive, they must phase out the use of hazardous substances through RoHS-like rules (4) and take the lead in pushing for contemporary legislation based on the principle of EPR. If not, the Indian IT industry will lag far behind the rest of the world and countries like China will continue to outperform us", said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Greenpeace India Executive Director.

A national EPR programme will make producers responsible for the entire lifecycle of their product, and will help transform the hazardous, life threatening informal recycling sector into one that is as profitable but less hazardous to human health and the environment. EPR or brand responsibility will motivate manufacturers to address the toxic problem at the product's design stage itself (which is when most environmental impacts are predetermined), rather than at the end of its life.

"Our in-depth study shows that there are no insurmountable obstacles to the implementation of EPR legislation in India", said Dr. Thomas Lindhqvist, co-author of the study (5). "Legislation based on the principle of EPR can avert the growing e-waste crisis that is the result of a lack of brand responsibility in the electronics industry."

Greenpeace believes that the very absence, thus far, of e-waste legislation, puts India in a unique position to draft a state-of-the-art legal framework based on the EPR principle. Even China is ahead of India as it has been consistently updating its regulatory mechanisms in keeping with modern developments. Leading international electronic brands (such as Dell and Lenovo) are already taking steps in accordance with the EPR principle. At a time when the Indian IT industry is moving forward in search of global recognition, its aspirations would be best served if the government implements the EPR principle.

For further information, contact

Ramapati Kumar, Toxics Campaigner, +91 98455 35414
Saumya Tripathi, Communications Officer, +91 93438 62212

Notes to Editor

(1) The report is available at
www.greenpeace.org/india/press/reports/epr-in-a-non-oecd-context

(2)The term ‘Extended Producer Responsibility' was officially introduced in a report to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment, Models for Extended Producer Responsibility (Lindhqvist, and Lidgren 1990). Subsequently, the concept was revised and defined as an environmental principle, giving it a legal nuance in that it "binds acts of international organisations, state practice, and soft law commitment".

(3) A study conducted by Greenpeace in recycling yards in India (2005) clearly indicates the high levels of hazardous chemicals at and around the workplace.
http://www.greenpeace.org/raw/content/india/press/reports/
recycling-of-electronic-wastes.pdf
Another recent study conducted by the US EPA (2007) further confirms the generation of neurotoxic gases such as dioxins and furans from the open burning of cables and printed circuit boards. See page 1 of the EPR report.

(4) The Restriction on Hazardous Substances is a legislation in place in Europe to phase out the use of toxic substances. Many other countries have similar legislation.

(5) Mr. Thomas Lindhqvist, PhD, is an associate professor working at the Lund University on Product Policies and is one of the authors of the Report. He is the inventor of the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (see note 2).

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