E-Waste causing environment damage and public health dangers

Manila, Philippines, Sept. 22, 2005 — Electronic waste at the Smokey Mountain garbage dump in Manila. Greenpeace today warned of a looming e-waste problem in the Philippines which can pose health and environmental risks. Electronic waste is the fastest growing component in the global waste stream amounting to 20 to 50 million tons worldwide with Asia contributing about 12 million tons a year.
Greenpeace/Enrique Soriano

A PHILIPPINE based environmentalist group warned the Filipino consumers from wantonly throwing discarded appliances and electronic gadgets due to the damage they cause to the environment and the dangers they bring to public health.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the warning over the weekend as it noted that because of the holiday season, old appliances and electronics gadgets are replaced with newer ones thus creating a lot of “e-waste,” which it described as “one of the fastest growing waste streams.”

As part of its effort to promote e-waste prevention, its reduction and safe management; the coalition recently conducted a public outreach program at Quezon Memorial Circle to inform the public about the dangers of e-waste and their safe use and disposal.

During the program, members of the San Vicente Elementary School Children’s Rondalla played Christmas songs as EcoWaste Coalition volunteers donning head gears with images of mobile phone, TV, laptop and other electrical and electronic products drew public attention on the hazards of e-waste.

According to an EcoWaste Coalition leaflet entitled “E-Waste ‘to, Iwasto!” that was distributed to the public, “e-wastes should be returned to their manufacturers for proper management as an ideal solution. Otherwise, e-wastes should be managed by accredited treatment, storage and disposal facility. These can be effectively done by instituting appropriate drop-off or collection points for their safe and ecological retrieval/collection, storage, and recycling or disposal.”

The leaflet was prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition for the “Safe PCB and E-Waste Management Project” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with assistance from Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

The outreach program followed the December 13 release of the Global E-Waste Monitor for 2017 by the International Telecommunication Union, United Nations University and the International Solid Waste Association. The monitor clearly indicates the rising levels of e-waste worldwide and its improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through burning or dumping.

(Read More: https://www.itu.int/en/ITU-D/Climate-Change/Pages/Global-E-waste-Monitor-2017.aspx)

Globally, according to the monitor, some 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated in 2016 of these we Filipinos individually produced between 2 to 5 kg of e-waste. Experts estimate that e-waste generation will reach 52.2 million metric tonnes by 2021.

“Broken appliances, outmoded gadgets, busted lamps and other unwanted electrical and electronic products that are improperly recycled, burned or disposed of can pollute the environment with health-damaging chemicals,” warns Thony Dizon, EcoWaste Coalition chemical safety campaigner.

Among the environment damaging and medically hazardous substances that make up electrical and electronic equipment wastes are heavy metals such as cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead and mercury, and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDes) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), among dozens of other toxic chemical compounds.

Thony Dizon © http://www.untvweb.com

Dizon said the reckless disposal practices of E-wastes result in the release of these nasty chemicals, some of which like mercury, PBDEs and PCBs are covered by multilateral environmental agreements like the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the Stockholm Convention on POPs. 

When e-wastes such as vinyl-coated cables are burned to get the copper wire, harmful byproduct POPs like dioxins and furans are formed and released to the environment, Dizon further explained.

According to health authorities, dioxins are considered as among “the most toxic chemicals known to science.”

Dizon added that when fluorescent lamps when dumped with ordinary trash or manually dismantled to remove the metal parts for recycling will release the mercury vapor out of the glass tubing and cause toxic pollution. Exposure to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, can damage the brain and the central nervous system.

Moreover, Dizon said, when the plastic casings of cathode ray tube TVs and computer monitors are incinerated or placed in landfills, toxic PBDEs are released contaminating the environment.

PBDEs are among the new POPs targeted for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention.

Meanwhile, to avoid and minimize the creation of e-waste this Yuletide season, the EcoWaste Coalition requested consumers to consider the following tips:

1. Extend the life of your existing electronics instead of buying new ones. Consider whether you truly need to get new ones before rushing to buy the latest stuff.

2. Have broken electronics repaired.

3. Have outdated component of an electronic product refurbished or upgraded instead of buying an entirely new replacement.

4. Never dispose of unwanted but still usable electronics. Pass them on to relatives and friends for reuse or donate to charities and schools. What might be of no use to you, might come in handy for some people.

5. Collect spent household batteries, cellphone batteries, fluorescent lamps, empty ink cartridges and the like, label and safely store them in a container with cover and kept out of reach of children and pets. These should be safely managed or disposed of in an environmentally-sound manner and not mixed with regular waste.

6. Visit the manufacturer’s website or call the dealer to find out if they have a take-back program or scheme for your discarded electronics.

7. If you really need to spend for new electronics, choose items with less hazardous substances, with greater recycled content, with higher energy efficiency, with longer life span, and those that will produce less waste.

8. Take good care of your electronic device – whether it’s brand new, refurbished or hand-me down – as sound maintenance will prolong its lifespan. Read the instruction manual carefully and get acquainted and trained on easy fix-it-yourself guide.

9. Make it a point to have your e-scrap properly recycled by authorized recyclers so that they don’t end up as e-waste to be thrown away or burned.

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