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    Apple Devices and Other e-Products Held by Central Pollution Control Board of India

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    Recently, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India took a significant step to reduce e-waste. It issued a command to seize electronics imported on ten permits that were withdrawn from use. As a result, the customs department held products worth approx. 5,000 crore ($723 million). It included various Apple devices and also products from other brands like Samsung, Vivo, HP, and others.

    Why Did CPCB Take This Step?

    CPCB explains that they took the step because many tech companies have violated Extended Producer Responsibility clauses of the import permits. These clauses strictly talked about e-waste and its management. And since the issue of the order, representatives of these company have met with environment industry officials to resolve the dispute. However, the matter remains far from solved.

    In response to the compliance, these tech enterprises feel the revocation is a disproportionate step towards rule violations. These are alleged to be minor compliance problems involving raising awareness of recycling centers and requesting approval from local authorities to shut down or open new centers. Also, these companies insist that they have exceeded their target to collect e-waste, making the punishment even more severe.        

    On the contrary, CPCB officials emphasized that the violations are not at all minor. For example, the officials said on visiting a collection center, they found that the operators of some centers were unaware that they are designated as authorized collection points under EPR. Hence, they made no efforts to collect or transfer e-waste to authorized recyclers. And the Environment Ministry sees this as major negligence of these companies’ part. The ministry also pointed out that they have been lenient with the firms. But there were limits to how far it would go.

    You can’t expect each time you meet and say you need six more months. Once the e-waste management rules kicked in in December 2016, we were meeting the companies regularly and hand-holding them,” an official advised. “Can they do any sort of noncompliance in any of the developed worlds?”    

    Was The Move Too Harsh?

    The firms said they are aware of mishandling of the rules. But they also believe the import ban was an excessive step and instead could have used financial penalties.  

    Now, as next call to action, the Indian Cellular and Electronic Association (ICEA) has requested a re-examination of the suspension rules for Apple India and other ICEA members. According to the association, this is a massive overreach of e-waste management rules.

    In between all this chaos, Apple takes pride in being one of the most environment-friendly technology company in existence. Its efforts range from producing recyclable devices to investing in forest protection and renewable resources.

    While the import ban could hamper the sales for this quarter, Apple India may not necessarily be affected too badly. Currently, its assembly partners Wistron is producing the iPhone SE, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 7 for domestic sale. And Foxconn is also gearing up for the iPhone production in India. However, the held up imports finished products, as well as raw materials, will impact the local smartphone market.

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