Lack of e-waste disposal laws

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Though the generation of uncontrolled electronic waste (e-waste) especially in the developed states has emerged as a major problem in terms of its proper disposal, yet these rich states have criminally devised a mechanism and dispatch this e-waste, which is 40 million tons worldwide each year, to poor countries especially Pakistan, India and Bangladesh where recycling business of this e-waste has a big space to flourish. Since this e-waste carries a huge percentage of toxic chemicals, the populations close to the e-waste dumping or recycling sites in Pakistan especially Layari in Karachi are exposed to multiple skin or lungs diseases. Workers (majority of the children) in this sector are illiterate and are not aware of the safety regulations governing the handling of e-waste. Surprisingly, all of this work is done by hand, and no protective equipment is used. According to statistics, only two per cent of the total e-waste exported to Pakistan is reused – for the remaining computers, all of the metals and plastics are taken out to be re-sold. European Union estimates that e-waste will grow every year by 3-5 per cent, and e-waste now constitutes a larger portion of municipal waste than diapers or drink containers. Computer waste contains brominates flame retardants (BFRs). Studies show that they can accumulate in animals and humans, meaning that they can easily enter the bloodstream. Even if computers are recycled properly, the high temperatures allow BFRs to combine with other chemicals, which is very dangerous. If computer parts are burned, dioxins are released, which are very toxic. Informal e-waste activities can also threaten the environment and human health through the contamination of agricultural lands and livestock. These risks could be lowered if proper measures are in place such as “proper ventilation and light. Workers at such sites should wear safety equipment and that smoking, eating and drinking should be prohibited in the work areas and workers should also be advised to wash their hands with proper detergents before meals. Pakistan is party to the Basel Convention, however, regrettably there is no progress towards implementation of relevant laws, rather the awareness level is almost at zero level

Lack of knowledge of the health and environmental risks has been blamed for the lack of rules and regulations when it comes to dealing with e-waste. Environment degradation in Pakistan is already inflicting Rs. 360 billion rupees accumulative loss per annum to the government which is entirely unaffordable. The authorities need to end their slumber and rise to this critical situation.


Published in: Volume 05 Issue 21

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