the problems associated with electronic waste (e-waste) disposal in the country have come to the fore with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (kspcb) issuing a show cause notice to information technology major Wipro Infotech for illegal disposal of such waste. But the onus is also shared by kspcb, because it has failed to ensure availability of authorised e-waste recyclers for the industry. The industry has the option to store its e-waste, but the burgeoning cyber waste generation, currently at 30 per cent, makes this provision unreasonable.
A regular kspcb inspection at Wipro's premises revealed no e-waste, resulting in a spate of notices to the company demanding an explanation. Wipro replied to the first notice on May 9, 2005, saying that since 2003, it has been sending its e-waste to Tamil Nadu-based Trishyiraya Recycling, authorised by kspcb as well as Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (tnpcb). But kspcb environment officer R Gujrumurthy argues: "We have authorised this recycler only in 2005 and tnpcb's authorisation came in 2004. So, we have asked Wipro to submit its record of recyclers to us." This demand was made in the next notice to Wipro on May 23, 2005. As the company did not furnish the said records, it was slapped another notice in June 2005. Wipro's spokesperson Sandya Ranjit says: "We have not replied yet. We have given the e-waste to an authorised recycler. We are facing a procedural issue."
Many software companies use the Exim policy for duty free import of equipment, but the same policy prevents them from selling these products. They donate some of it to educational institutions but most end up in the informal scrap market. Auction dealers buy e-waste from companies.
"The Wipro incident only reveals the inexcusable delay of regulatory agencies, both the Central Pollution Control Board and kspcb, in authorising low cost recyclers," alleges Almitra Patil, member of the Supreme Court committee appointed to draft guidelines for e-waste legalisations. The treatment, storage and disposal facility to be constructed by kspcb in Dobbespet has been inordinately delayed. The board also admits that two low-cost eco-recyclers have submitted proposals for setting up units but are yet to receive authorisation.