How to tackle the growing problem of electronic waste
Have you ever wondered what happens to electronic waste? Most of it goes to landfills which puts them at risk of leaking harmful substances into the environment.
The US-based Environmental Protection Agency estimates as much as 60 million metric tonnes of e-waste enter landfills every year with poisonous materials such as beryllium, cadmium, mercury and lead, potentially leaking into soil and water supply. Here is a video recorded at one of the e-waste dumping grounds in China.
What is e-waste?
Electronic waste is a term used for electronic products that have become unwanted due to damage or being made obsolete. Electronic devices become ‘trash’ just after a few years of use because new technology advances quickly.
The obsolete devices are a growing problem because they are taking up space in the landfills rapidly. In 2014, about 41.8 million tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide. This amount is suspected to grow to 49.8 million tonnes by 2018.
In Brunei, the average person generates 18 kilogrammes of e-waste per year, according to a 2015 study by the United Nations University.
Although it accounts for a minuscule portion of Brunei’s total generated waste, improper disposal of e-waste can lead to environmental and health consequences.
In Brunei, the average person generates 18 kilogrammes of e-waste per year.
Why is proper disposal of e-waste important?
Electronic waste often contains substances that are hazardous which means that they must be disposed of correctly following their use by date. This means that learning about proper disposal of e-waste also helps foster habits that contribute to environmental sustainability in Brunei.
“Sustainable development requires you to see the interconnection between your actions, what your actions create and how it relates to your surroundings,” said Gabriel Yong, a Geography, Environment & Development Studies lecturer at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).
He said that initiatives to recycle e-waste should be paired with initiatives to upgrade old electronics to minimise the accumulation of e-waste. This is because the heavy metal components in e-waste make it unsafe to be disposed of in landfills, as metals such as lead, mercury or arsenic could leak out resulting in soil and water contamination.
What can you do to help mitigate e-waste?
Brunei does not have a dedicated e-waste recycling facility which means that the onus falls on individuals to properly dispose of their old electronics. There are recycling companies in Brunei that collect e-waste in bulk and send it abroad for recycling.
One of the more comprehensive recycling centres is Daikyo Environmental Recycling (email@example.com) in Muara, which accepts e-waste including old computers, radios, game consoles and mobile phones.
If you have any unused electronics lying around, round them up together and drop them off at the recycling centre. The environment will surely thank you for it.