Menace of e-waste needs regulations

ELECTRONIC WASTE or e-waste is one of the rapidly growing problems of the world. E-waste comprises a multitude of components, some containing toxic substances that can have an adverse impact on human health and the environment if not handled properly. In Pakistan, electronic waste management assumes greater significance not only due to the import of new electronic items but also because of the dumping of e-waste (second-hand electronic items) from developed countries. This is coupled with Pakistans lack of appropriate infrastructure and procedures for its disposal and recycling. New electronic appliances and gadgets have infiltrated every aspect of our daily lives, providing our society with more comfort, health and security. This new kind of waste is posing a serious challenge in disposal and recycling to both developed and developing countries. The dumping of e-waste, particularly computer waste, into Pakistan from developed countries, because the latter find it convenient and economical to export waste, has further complicated the problems with waste management. All this has made e-waste management an issue of environment and health concern. Most of the people working in this recycling sector are the urban poor with very low literacy levels and hence very little awareness regarding the hazards of e-waste toxins. There is a sizeable number of child-labor who is engaged in these activities and they are more vulnerable to the hazards of this waste. Pakistan has signed Basel Convention, but we are lacking with legislation and implementation as well. The United States is one of the largest exporters of e-waste with 7.07 million tons output in 2014 to developing countries, has signed the Basel Convention, but yet not ratified it. For this reason, US cannot participate in waste transfers with Basel Parties without a separate and equivalent agreement. The US has established two bilateral agreements with Canada and Mexico; and Costa Rica, Malaysia and Philippines have entered into separate agreements with US. Under these agreements, the US may receive e-waste from these countries but may not export to them. Since Pakistan is a potential market for electronic waste exporters, we need to immediately establish agreements with the developed countries especially with the US to stop sending e-waste, and we must implement Take Back System with producers/retailers. For effective e-waste management, we need to quantify and characterize this waste stream, identify major waste generators. And assess the risks involved. A scientific, safe and environmentally sound management system, including policies and technologies, need to be developed and implemented.

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