Decoding the amended e-waste management rules

Manufacturers and importers must procure EPR certificates for operating in India

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The government plans to establish multiple platforms for the exchange of extended producer responsibility (EPR) certificates for the effective management of e-waste. EPR is an environmental policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle. It aims to hold producers more accountable and nudge them to take environmental considerations into account at the designing stage. 

EPR certificates are tradable credits to offset the environmental obligations of companies just like green credits or carbon credits. Manufacturers and importers must procure EPR certificates for operating in India. 

The central government has also, surprisingly, empowered itself to fix the prices for the exchange of these certificates. 

According to new e-waste management amendment rules 2024 notified on March 8, the central government “may establish one or more platforms for exchange or transfer of EPR certificates and the operation of the platform shall be regulated in accordance with CPCB guidelines.” Currently, the generation and transfer of EPR certificates are done on a centralised EPR portal hosted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. 

“CPCB shall fix the highest and lowest price for exchange of EPR certificates which shall be equal to hundred per cent and thirty per cent, respectively of the environmental compensation for non-fulfilment of EPR obligation,” the notification further reads. 

Experts, however, see red. Priti Mahesh, chief programme coordinator, Toxics Link says, “The amendment that allows multiple platforms for the exchange of EPR certificates needs very careful oversight, which has been the shortcoming since the first e-waste rules were notified in 2022. And hence this change is worrying.” 

“How will the sync between multiple platforms be ensured? How will you ensure that double reporting and paper trading is not done during the exchanges? How will you ensure transparency? The whole idea of EPR was already weakened with EPR certificates and now this, in the absence of strong enforcement, may weaken it further,” she added.  Priti also says that the provision as per which the government gets to decide the prices is “controlling the market too much.”

The amendment also states that if satisfied, the central government can relax the time period within which any return or report is to be filed by a manufacturer, producer, refurbisher or recycler of electrical and electronic equipment and components or consumables or parts or spares thereof, for a further period not exceeding nine months. This means that producers and recyclers will now get more time to report their actions on the fulfilment of their EPR obligations. 

“This is an important step taken in the context of environmental regulatory effectiveness for responsible e-waste management accompanied by flexible filing of returns,” says Dr Mashhood Alam, senior research associate with BRCG Research & Development Foundation. 

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