MANILA, Philippines – In this electronic age, new, shiny gadgets top our Christmas wish lists to replace our old and not-as-shiny-but-still-functional ones.
Our high demand for new electronics increases our generation of electronic waste or e-waste. Discarded computers, office electronic equipment, entertainment devices, mobile phones, television sets, and refrigerators are all considered e-waste whether they are working or not.
The United Nations University StEP-initiative reported that the Philippines generated 244 metric kilotons of e-waste in 2012.
Many of these devices contain toxic metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium) that can stream into our environment if not managed properly. Most of these items haphazardly find their way to landfills and open pits rather than facilities equipped to treat hazardous waste.
In addition, the International Labour Organization’s 2004 study found that children are exploited to scavenge through mixed waste for recyclables/re-usable in legal and illegal landfills, dumpsites, and street bins, so they may come in contact with improperly disposed e-waste.
A 2013 study conducted by the Ateneo School of Government made an estimate that, by 2015, over 292,000 computer units will become obsolete, and another 426,000 in 2020, with 93,000 units being landfilled. In addition, an estimated 1.5 million television sets will become obsolete by 2015.
Toxic elements from e-waste can leach to a great extent even with a short contact time, and has the ability to change the acidity, conductance, and hardness levels in water.
Toxic metals, such as mercury, bio-accumulates in living organisms and can cause neurological and respiratory problems. There are ways, however, to limit our society’s exposure to the toxic metals from e-waste materials.
Here are 5 tips to keep your e-waste at bay:
1. Be smart, look for greener electronics
Organizations like Greenpeace have compiled a list evaluating electronic companies’ commitment and progress on reducing their environmental footprint.
You can buy electronic goodies with very little toxins in them. Be mindful of your purchases and look for electronics with the RoHS logo (European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances, which requires electronics manufacturers to eliminate toxins, such as lead and cadmium, in the products they sell). Aside from the RoHS logo, look for products with the Energy Star label, J-Moss (Japan Ministerial Ordinances), and WEEE compliant logos7.
2. Think twice before you throw your gadget in the bin
Properly dispose your items through disposal hazardous waste facilities registered with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Globe Telecom acknowledges the importance of proper e-waste disposal and conducts a mobile recycling program. They accept old phones in many of their participating stores.
Alternatively, ask your electronics manufacturers if they have a take-back policy or trade-in programs.
Groups such as the Basel Action Network established the e-Stewards Initiative, an electronics waste recycling standard that holds electronics recyclers in North America to recycle locally and not export their toxic e-waste to developing countries.
Recycling initiatives such as these are gaining momentum. Check around your city if you have reputable recyclers that have passed similar certifications.
3. Bring life to the old by taking your faulty electronics to your local accredited electrician or service centers
The cost of getting them fixed can outweigh the cost of getting a new one. If they are not faulty, you can still give them a new lease on life by selling them online through sites such as olx.ph and ayosdito.ph.
4. Reconsider whether you need new gadgets
If your electronics is still within its functional capacity, the latest update might not be worth the added social and environmental cost.
5. Take a break from technology
Give your loved ones something different this season by going on nature hikes or these local artisanal gifts.
While it is always nice to buy something new or to give and receive the latest and coolest gadgets in the market this Christmas season, we must also bear in mind that it also has the potential to do harm, if e-wastes are improperly managed.
As updated as we are with the latest trends in technology, we must also be responsible for the fallen gadgets that served us through its useful life.
Remember: the best way to avoid e-waste is not to generate it in the first place. – Rappler.com
Jezreel Belleza is a media and communications assistant at Ban Toxics, an independent, non-profit environmental organization devoted to the promotion and defense of environmental justice in upholding social justice in the greater Southeast Asian region.
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