When we started our campaign to tackle the global e-waste crisis in 2005 we went to India to document the terrible environmental and health effects of toxic e-waste being dumped across Asia and Africa. Just 6 years later we have achieved a key aim of this campaign – legislation that makes companies responsible for their products at end of life. 

Child recycles E-waste in IndiaIndia has long been a destination for the dumping of e-waste from developed countries but also has a rapidly growing domestic electronics industry, making national legislation that tackled both e-waste imports and domestically produced electronics the key aim of the campaign. After highlighting the problem, Greenpeace worked behind the scenes for several years to get companies, industry associations and government experts to draft legislation that a binding law to make producers financially liable for the management of e-wastes, and in particular their own e-waste.

The e-waste crisis can only be solved by three key measures – companies removing hazardous substances to make reuse and recycling easier and safer. Indian companies HCL and Wipro have phased out the worst hazardous substances and the indian WEEE law requires all indian producers to do the same. Companies must take responsibility for the costs of their products at the end of life, adopting what is called Individual Producer Responsibility . HCL and Wipro also strongly supported the Indian law development and are leading by example, with Wipro now collecting 30 tons of e-waste every month. The new WEEE law must now set up clear guidance to make sure the costs are properly shared and there are clear collection and recycling targets.  Finally strong global regulation and enforcement  is required to prevent illegal, and sometimes legal, exports of ewaste for dumping in Asia and Africa.

This new Indian e-waste law is a big step in the right direction – its not going to solve India’se-waste problem right away (effective implementation and future strengthening of the regulation is needed) our India campaigner, Abhishek Pratap, summed up the impact of the law:

“This is not just a victory for the environment but business, as it creates a level-playing field. The rule ensures a transition from the current out-of-sight out-of-mind approach to proper recycling of e-wastes and in the process accelerating the commercial introduction of green electronic products in the market.”

 The fact that India has adopted such a law also is a positive example for ongoing discussions on regulation of the electronics in places such Argentina and in the EU, which is finalising a new version of electronic waste regulation, the WEEE directive. Together India, Argentina and the EU can create a global benchmark for responsible and forward looking ewaste treatment.

Image - A Child Recycles E-Waste in Delhi © Greenpeace/Prakash Hatvalne