Time for govt to attend to safe disposal of electronic waste

Published: 00:05, Oct 13,2017 | Updated: 22:26, Oct 12,2017

 
 

ELECTRONIC waste, or e-waste, has become the fastest-growing pollution concern the world over although Bangladesh is yet to catch up on the issue. The presence of toxic substances that can contaminate the environment and threaten human health calls, therefore, for meticulous adherence to disposal protocols in the case of electronic waste management. But what remains worrisome is that, as New Age reported on Thursday, city and municipal authorities in Bangladesh are not yet aware of the fact that a huge volume of electronic wastes are being dumped in the open, not just in the capital city but also elsewhere in the country. They also do not have any mechanism to sieve out electronic wastes from other municipal wastes for disposal in a proper manner. And they even, as of now, do not feel the need for putting in place the required resources for the purpose and any standard protocol for the disposal process. While such a situation continues, an increased use of electronic devices such as computers, mobiles, electric cables, television sets, fridges, air conditioners, photocopiers and the like in this digital age is likely to intensify the concern, and the associated health and environment problems, if the authorities concerned did not wake up to the forthcoming danger.
Heavy metals in electronic wastes are detrimental to both human health and the environment. Such substances could, as medical experts say, damage kidney, cause cancer and many other deadly diseases. It is, therefore, time that authorities concerned woke up, worked out proper disposal protocols and enforced strict adherence to such mechanisms before the situation worsens to an irreparable extent. In view of such a danger, which is only likely to intensify with more digitisation of society, the government should sit with experts to work out protocols and enforcement. The department of environment is reported to have started working on rules for the safe disposal of electronic waste, but such a work should not be left to only one agency and must involve experts from other communities. Several tools such as life cycle assessment, material flow analysis and multi-criteria analysis could be looked into and taken into consideration together to work out a sustainable solution. No single tool could be adequate and all available processes, complementing each other, could be put to use to solve the growing electronic waste problems.
Important tasks in electronic waste management could be to develop eco-design devices, properly collect such wastes by safe methods, dispose of the waste with suitable techniques and stop the inward transfer of used electronic devices from other countries. While the government needs to attach priority to such issues, it must also ensure that embargo on the import on reconditioned and used items which could be harmful, as laid out in the Import Policy Order 2015–2018, is strictly enforced. Along with doing all this, the government also needs to carry out awareness campaigns on the danger of improper disposal of electronic waste and involve the communities in the process.

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