Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology professor Rowshan Mamtaz said that e-waste was at the same time dangerous and valuable.
‘Proper management of waste creates resources but its mismanagement causes serious health and environmental hazards as they contain different heavy metals, including lead, mercury, chromium and cadmium,’ she said.
BUET conducted a study in 2018 for the Department of Environment to assess the quantity, effects and recycling potentiality of e-waste.
A study unveiled that four lakh tonnes e-waste was generated in 2018 which contained hazardous heavy metals like lead, mercury, chromium and cadmium and at the same time precious metals like gold, silver, iron and copper.
A study that would soon be published also found that e-waste has been increasing by 20 per cent per year, more than two times higher than global trend, and if e-waste was not managed immediately in a structured manner it would increase the risk of various diseases, she said.
She also pointed out that only 3 per cent of total e-waste was recycled in the informal sector across the country while rest went to nature in different phases and processes.
She said that most parts of the e-waste could be recycled and they contained valuable metals, including gold, silver, nickel, iron, steel and copper.
The way the informal entrepreneurs recycle e-waste was downright dangerous. For example she said that they burnt cable to recover copper. Burning cable produced dioxin which is pollutant that contaminated the air, she observed.
The recyclers are mostly unaware of heavy metals in e-waste. While they collect iron, steel and plastic, they throw away others which contained heavy metals.
‘Lack of proper way to separate heavy metals increase health and environmental risks,’ she said.
Mamtaz said that it was high time that we took actions against the serious pollution which might damage the nerve system and might even cause cancer.
She asked the government to finalise the e-waste handling guideline immediately and start implementation of the guideline in co-operation of the concern ministries, including the ministry of environment, industries, commerce and local government.
He said that not only the consumers and producers have an important role to play in this. Coordinated effort is an imperative for proper management of e-waste.
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