The Financial Express

Dealing with e-waste  

Published: February 09, 2019 22:06:56 | Updated: February 11, 2019 22:06:54

Dealing with e-waste   

Few realised even one-and-half decades back that the waste generated by electronic goods was set to emerge as a potent threat to public health. But in 2019, it has assumed the proportions of a frightful health hazard.  Most of the unwitting users have least idea about the scourge of the e-waste (electronic waste). Except the advanced manufacturers and environment activists, majority of the people dealing with electronic appliances are not aware of the dangers of this waste generated in the electronic age. Though it can remotely be compared with the medical waste, it far outweighs the former in terms of the harm it can inflict on the general public. Like the medical waste, it gives the look of normal, but a little different, waste. Given its multifarious uses, the user-exclusiveness and the higher price-tag, e-waste carries a unique appeal -- especially for a section of businesses. The danger lies there. They become scraps outwardly, but prompt the petty businesses to buy them to use for other purposes. But even as they go into crude and manual recycling phases, the persons concerned are least bothered about their coming into contact with myriad types of harmful substances. The contamination and the following sickness and fatalities remain ominously insidious.

With the unabated increase in e-technology access, the volume of its waste also continues to rise. In the last eight years, the total amount of e-waste in Bangladesh accumulated at an alarming pace; experts observe it has increased thrice as much as before. According to Department of Environment statistics, the country generated around 0.4 million tonnes of e-waste last year. A highly troubling prediction is the e-waste would increase by more than 11 times to an alarming 4.62 million tonnes by 2035. With the progress of the technological march in place, and the benefits coming from it, it is implied that the volume of electric gadgets' entry into the country would keep rising. To the jitters of health and environment activists, all this will most likely lead to increase in the generation of e-waste impacts.

Bangladesh suffers from scores of limitations in e-waste recycling processes. Due to the country's being well set in the digital age, relatively big and small electronic appliances flood the country. Gadgets ranging from PCs, laptops, mobile phones etc to the generally conventional ones like television sets, computer printers, photocopiers, ACs to refrigerators have virtually become integral to a modern life in the urban areas. The used and dysfunctional units of these appliances generate the largest amount of e-waste. An appalling aspect of this process is the contracting of various crippling diseases due to physical contact with substances like lead, mercury, cadmium, lead oxide etc.

Experts have long been calling for putting in place separate set of regulations for e-waste management. It is now an established fact that e-waste management could be a 'billion-dollar' business for the country. But there is a rider. For it to materialise, the authorities need a comprehensive policy for e-waste management. It's undoubtedly a wise suggestion that e-waste management should be developed into an attractive business outlet. This will ensure greater expansion of recycling services in the country. The basic point is e-waste cannot be allowed to become entrenched in the country any more. The country has long been passing through the nightmares of polythene, tannery and medical waste pollutions. The fast emerging e-waste pollution is feared to stretch the nation's capability to live in a sound environment.   

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