Environment and Social Development Organization secretary general Shahriar Hossain said that for low-quality products in the market in Bangladesh was responsible for a sizable e-waste every year while the country had no mechanism of e-waste management.
He said that the substandard products flooding the market also cheated the customers out of the prices they pay for appliances which could only be controlled by putting in place a strong monitoring system.
‘Government should not allow any product that comes with less than five years warranty,’ he said.
A study conducted by the ESDO unveiled in June 2019 found that 2.90 million metric tonnes of e-waste was being generated in Bangladesh every year and the trend is only growing.
The study was conducted based on information collected from producers, importers, sellers and products’ lifetime, said Shahriar.
He said that the study revealed that less than 10 per cent of the total waste was recycled in the informal sector and precious metals recovered from them were being exported to China, Japan and Sri Lanka.
He said that e-waste was not like general waste. It was highly toxic as it contained hazardous particles.
‘E-waste in many ways is more dangerous than medical waste as it is considered a time bomb. It not only contaminates the environment but also spread poison through heavy metals it contain,’ he said.
Shahriar, who has been campaigning to reduce e-waste generation and safe management of waste, said that electronics and electrical wastes contained more than 40 types of heavy metals including mercury, lead, zinc, chromium and cadmium which were very dangerous for health.
‘Mismanagement of the hazardous waste leads to leachate contamination of the soil, water and air after a certain timeframe and then through exposure, humans are affected as are plants and animals who take them from soil or water,’ he said.
Shahriar said that Bangladesh was yet to develop any mechanism to manage e-waste as it also failed to manage medical, plastic or other dangerous waste.
‘First of all the government should adopt a policy to ensure production of less quantity of e-waste and then develop a guideline for better management,’ he said.
He also emphasised that e-waste management was totally different from other waste as in this case the waste contained many precious metals like gold, silver, iron, etc.
Resource recovery was one of the most important parts of the waste management which is continued by informal sector entrepreneurs of the country, he said.
Informal sector recyclers were polluting environment and increasing health risk for their employees as well as the surroundings, he said.
There is a global standard for e-waste management and Nepal, India and Sri Lanka have already developed their own e-waste management guidelines, he said.
He added that the Department of Environment had taken an initiative to draw up a guideline, though that guideline remained a draft for years.
Not only for the sake of environment and health, Bangladesh must bear the responsibility of managing its e-waste as an UN member country who is a signatory of the Stockholm convention.
Violating Basel convention on the control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal, many countries were dumping e-waste in Bangladesh in the form of reconditioned photocopier, computer and other second-hand products.
If the government could reduce generation of e-waste and ensure their proper management, it would certainly financially benefit Bangladesh and safeguard the health of the multitude and environment, Shahriar observed.
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