E-waste: a threat in the future
The flood of electronic waste such as discarded information and
communication equipment as well as other electronic products is a
growing concern, Central Environment Authority Chairman Charitha Herath
He called on the public, organizations and other stakeholders to
support the government's efforts at responsible e-waste disposal and
environmentally sound e-waste management.
He said so at the national e-waste forum at the BMICH on Monday held
to review the progress of the National E-Waste Management programme and
its future plans.
The National E-waste Management programme was launched under the
auspices of Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa in November
2010. It was prepared by the CEA with the co-operation of several
leading private companies involved in selling and assembling electronic
equipment in Sri Lanka and firms that are engaged in e-waste disposal.
During Monday's forum, Herath said the public and organizations can
obtain information on the closest e-waste collection units to their
residence or establishment by dialing the government information hotline
Senior Lecturer and Head of the e-waste project, Griffith School of
Engineering, Griffith University, Brisbane Queensland, Australia Dr.
Sunil Herat delivering the key note address on the occasion said proper
management of e-waste is becoming a major problem in many countries.
"It is estimated that the world generates 20-50 million tones of
e-waste annually, most of it from Asian countries. Improper handling of
e-waste can cause harm to the environment and health due to its toxic
components," he added. The paper presented by him provided an overview
of the challenges and issues faced by Asian countries in managing their
e-waste in a substantial way. A special mention was made about the
possible environment risks which could arise out of the improper
disposal of CFL bulbs in Sri Lanka.
E-waste is customer electronic equipment that are no longer wanted.
These include all electronic appliances such as televisions, washing
machines, radios, computers, cellular phones, refrigerators, bulbs etc.
The volume of discarded electronics generated is growing
dramatically. In Sri Lanka it is estimated that there are more than 15
million mobile phones in use and the annual discard numbers could be
above one million. In the US according to a survey in California alone,
6,000 computers become obsolete each day. Out of the high volume of
discarded and obsolete computers, only 10% are actually recycled. The
vast majority of electronics are simply thrown away.
Computers seem so efficient and environmentally-friendly, but there
are hidden dangers associated with them once they become e-waste. The
harmful material contained in electronics, coupled with the fast rate at
which we're replacing outdated units, poses a real danger to health if
electronics are not properly processed prior to disposal or recycle.
Electronics such as computers and cell phones contain a lot of
different toxins. For example, cathode ray tubes (CRTs) in computers
contain heavy metal, such as lead, barium and cadmium, which can be very
harmful to health if they enter the water system.
These material can cause damage to the human nervous and respiratory
systems. Flame retardant plastics, used in electronics casings, can
release particles that damage human endocrine functions.