E-Waste, A Threat or Opportunity?

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Present technological needs such as the wish of people to be socially strong and stay connected around the globe can be satisfied by electronic product innovations. As some latest 3D products are continually developed and introduced into the marketplace, leading towards the trend that buyers replace standing electronic products that are either damaged or simply old-fashioned, resulting in the generation of  bulk of discarded electrical goods that is increasing the worldwide waste stream leading environmental pollution. Sometimes, E-waste is misunderstood if related to old computers or IT equipment, while, in the international literature the identical term Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is also used. E-waste can be defined as:

Existing Status

An estimated production of global e-waste is as 20-50 million ton per year that is parallel to almost 1 to 3% of the estimated global urban waste production that is 1636 million ton. Electrical and electronic waste production has been increased worldwide. Between 2009 and 2014, the magnitude of discarded computers, telephones, televisions and other home appliances has been folded to about 42 million tons/year globally; comprising 16 million ton/year in Asia, 11.7 million ton/year in America, 11.6 million ton/year in Europe, 1.9 million ton/year in Africa. One of the major receivers of e-waste and second-hand equipment along with China, India and Nigeria is Pakistan,  Various of the source countries transmitting e-waste to Pakistan include Australia, Japan, England, United States, European Union, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and UAE. There are certain national and international regulations like section 13 of The Pakistan Environmental Protection Act 1997, Government of Pakistan imposed 25% tax on computer monitors, National Environment Policy 2005 to discourage e-waste flow from developed to developing countries, yet it still finds its way to Pakistan in the form of donations or second-hand equipment exports, the problem lies in the fact that only 2% of the mass can be recovered. The rest is recycled by casual recyclers.

E-waste, major environmental concern

In modern years, the production rate of WEEE has intensely increased. On the other hand, electronic-waste (E-waste) is an emerging issue in the developed and developing country, due to its negative consequences as environmental and human health hazards. These may be due to the inadequate recycling and disposal practices used. It can have serious outcomes for those in vicinity where e-waste is being recycled or burnt owing to the occurrence of certain heavy metals like lead, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, BFR, polyvinyl chloride and phosphorus compounds.

Challenges of e-waste

  • Lack of public awareness regarding E-Wastes. Less attention from government and non-government environmental bodies.
  • Inadequate regulatory measures, strategies and implementation of law.
  • Lack of coordination among different Stakeholders and Ministries or Departments. Inefficient regulation system for import of refurbished computers.
  • Insufficient funding for the implementation of the provisions of the Basel Convention.
  • Proper inventories of Hazardous Waste including E-waste are not available.

Actions required to meet the challenges

  • Institutional Agenda for the implementation of Basel Convention needs to be strengthened instantly.
  • National Implementation Plan and strategies of the Convention need to be prepared and executed.
  • The current awareness regarding the presence and threats of e-waste are extremely low, partly because the e-waste being generated is not as large as in developed countries. Serious actions are needed to address this problem. For this, following are some suggestions for e-waste management include:
  • Promoting the trend of reuse by donating old electronics, that will extends the shelf life of valuable goods and keeps them out of the waste management system for a while.
  • Prefer to buy such electronic products that are made with less toxic constituents, use recycled content that are energy efficient, and designed for easy advancement or disassembly, use minimal packaging and offer take back options.
  • Consumer awareness building campaigns should be planned by the Ministry and the other relevant Stakeholders on application of 3R technologies that will reduce the e-waste.

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Published in: Volume 08 Issue 33

Short Link: http://www.technologytimes.pk/?p=17944