Have you ever wondered where your irreparable battery, cord, or plug-dependent devices go? And do you know that improper disposal of these items may threaten public health?
A 2019 report from “A New Circular Vision for Electronics: Time for a Global Reboot” showed that 80 percent of e-waste goes to a landfill or is informally recycled, while less than 20 percent is formally recycled.
Citing that report, Jover Larion of the EcoWaste Coalition (EWC), said that the study also revealed that informal recyclers in developing countries like the Philippines handle e-waste “by hand,” which expose them to hazardous and carcinogenic substances such as mercury, lead, and cadmium.
Other e-waste excreted chemicals include hexavalent chromium, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDes), polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, and many others.
Larion reiterated that improper e-waste management, such as burning, dumping fluorescent lamps, breaking leaded glasses of television picture tubes, and dismantling e-waste in streets and alleys, might lead to exposure and release of the above-mentioned toxic chemicals.
Items considered as e-waste
Anything with a battery, electric cord, or plug that reaches the end of its life is considered e-waste.
“Common examples of e-waste include non-functional appliances (electric cookers and stoves, coffee makers, toasters, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, fans, stereo and TV sets, desktop computers),” Larion said in an online interview with Manila Bulletin.
Other typical samples he cited are: “broken or obsolete gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops, tablets, chargers, remote controls; busted lamps (incandescent bulbs, fluorescent lamps, LED lights); spent batteries and other unwanted electrical and electronic products, including broken electronic cigarettes or vapes and worn out electronic toys.”
A person generates approximately 3.9 kilograms of waste, including electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), which totals to 32,664.41 metric tons (MT) of e-waste per year, according to the 2019 Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) data and the Global Environment Report.
To manage these wastes, Larion advised Metro Manila residents to bring their items to the country’s first barangay-run facility located in Barangay 176, Bagong Silang in Caloocan City, launched in November 2020.
For residents near Dampalit, Malabon, a similar government-supported e-waste treatment, storage, and disposal (TSD) facility was installed within the area last March 2.
“There are ways to prevent e-waste from entering landfills, such as keeping the public informed on safe e-waste management, providing drop-off points, and supporting environmentally sound recycling efforts. Big or small, all e-waste must be properly recycled or disposed of to conserve resources and prevent their toxic components from polluting the environment,” he explained.
Larion also highlighted the need for an extended producer responsibility (EPR) system for electrical and electronic equipment.
“If there is a functional EPR system in place, the manufacturer of an electrical or electronic product will be responsible for the whole product life cycle, especially for the take-back, recycling, and disposal after a product’s useful life,” he said.
Initiatives and regulatory policy
Aside from e-waste facilities, the national government and private entities also implemented programs such as the “Safe PCB and E-Waste Management Project” conducted by the Department of Environment Natural Resources (DENR) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
According to Larion, the said project aims “to demonstrate Best Available Techniques/Best Environmental Practices (BAT/BEP) in the sustainable management of e-waste.”
Moreover, Globe implemented the “E-Waste Zero” initiative to recover and recycle old mobile phones, broken chargers, and electronic gadgets. At the same time, the UP Circuit conducted “The E-Waste Project” to raise awareness and promote the collection and recycling of e-waste.
In a 2020 statement, EMB revealed that the national policy and regulatory framework or the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 6969 or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Control Act have been in place since 1990.
“The law seeks to regulate the importation, manufacture, processing, handling, storage, transportation, sale, distribution, use, treatment, and disposal of toxic chemicals and hazardous wastes that pose risks to human health and the environment,” the EMB said.
To monitor e-waste movement, generators, transporters, and treatment, storage, and disposal (TSD) facilities of hazardous waste must be registered with EMB, to be able to get a permit to transport (PTT), and manifest chain-of-custody document, as stated under DENR Administrative Order 2013-22.