Law to Recycle e-Waste, Push to Startups for Battery Manufacturing: Centre’s ‘Circular Economy’ Agenda

From framing stringent legislation on recycling electronic waste and policies to encourage investment in hybrid power and storage systems to promoting the use of existing battery manufacturing facilities for start-ups and strengthening raw material supply chains — the Centre is exploring several new ideas as part of its plans to transition India into a circular economy, News18 has learnt.

As per a Niti Aayog statement, a circular economy is an economic approach aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources, adopting which could bring in substantial annual benefits for India, along with a reduction in congestion and pollution, which eventually have a snowball effect on the economy. It involves maximising resource efficiency while minimising the consumption of finite resources.

The ideas — particularly in the areas of e-waste, green energy and low carbon development strategy, energy efficiency and savings measures as well as next generation mobility, battery swapping and Electric Vehicle policies — were discussed at a meeting in March this year, attended by top officials of several ministries.

The initiative is being steered by government think tank Niti Aayog, which had set up 11 committees last year for 11 focus areas, including end-of-life products, recyclable materials or wastes which are either posing significant environmental challenges or are potentially new challenge areas.

The focus areas include Municipal Solid Waste and Liquid Waste, Scrap Metal (Ferrous and Non-Ferrous) Electronic Waste, Lithium Ion Batteries, Solar Panels, Gypsum, Toxic and Hazardous Industrial Waste, Used Oil Waste, Agriculture Waste, Tyre and Rubber Recycling and End-of-life Vehicles (ELVs).

Each panel would be led by separate ministries and comprise officials from Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and NITI Aayog, domain experts, academics and industry representatives. As per a Niti Aayog statement, they will prepare comprehensive action plans for “transitioning from a linear to a circular economy in their respective focus areas” and carry out the modalities to ensure their findings and recommendations are implemented.

Swaminathan Ramanathan, director, Deloitte India, who has extensively researched on sustainability and urban affairs, told News18 that the idea of circularity is embedded into the Indian culture.

“Circularity essentially is a cradle-to-cradle concept, to ensure that a by-product gets utilised in the same value chain or in other value chains,” said Swaminathan, also a researcher and teacher at Sweden-based Uppsala University.

New ideas on cards

As per senior government officials, drafting a stringent law on recycling e-wastes by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) under the Ministry of Science and Technology, was among the issues discussed in the meeting.

Fast-tracking the implementation of the Performance Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for creating an ecosystem to manufacture chips in India, chalking out criteria for sustainability of recycling operations in a bid to ensure greener routes for recycling, were the other issues discussed.

The government is also exploring if supply chains on both the input and output of waste recycling operations can be made auditable, and incentives can be designed for optimising indigenous resources in recycled products.

“Expanding the National Biofuel Policy to a national bio-economy policy and drafting a scheme to ensure PLI is applicable at the component levels of a renewable power infrastructure are among the issued being explored,” a source in the government said.

The government is also checking the feasibility of expanding the role of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency to monitoring and enforcement mechanism as well.

The source quoted above said the ways to strengthen building codes with environmental impact measurement and reporting system is being discussed for better designing of buildings and use of green building construction materials in them.

Drafting a policy to promote use of existing battery manufacturing facilities for start-ups, as part of promoting them for indigenous manufacturing of batteries and related components, adoption of global standards for battery swapping along with connectors and communication protocols and strengthening of raw material supply chain are the other major aspects which multiple ministries are actively looking into.

Swaminathan told News18 that from an energy perspective, we need to look for solutions which are circular. “So, if India is to invest its resources and capital towards this sector, green hydrogen should get the preference, even more than electric vehicles,” he said.

He added that it is a cleaner source of energy if one looks at it from the end-to-end perspective and is perfectly in line with the concept of circularity.

“Also it will make India independent in terms of energy security, without being dependent on any imports, paving the country’s way as an energy exporter in the future.”

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