Electronic Waste – How do we deal with it?

January 28, 2007

As if the garbage problem in Manila is not enough, now we have to contend with a modern and deadlier kind of garbage.  It is called “Electronic Waste”.  Never heard of “electronic waste”?  It is also commonly called “e-waste”.  It is a type of waste consisting of any broken or unwanted electrical or electronic appliance.

In most cases, e-wastes consists of electronic products that were used for data processing, telecommunications, or entertainment, found in private housholds or businesses, that are considered obsolete, broken, or unrepairable.  We can name a few examples such as computers, laptops, mobile phones, stereos, televisions, refrigerators, microwave ovens, etc. etc…  Wow so many…

Now these devices are very useful and actually a part of our daily lives.  But once we replace them, we cannot just throw them away.  Most material and parts inside these devices are not biodegradable, and some are really harmful not just to the environment but also humans.  Take for example the refrigerator.  A sitting, old refrigerator has ozone depleting freon gas, and has insulation materials that can be cancerous.  Rechargable batteries, found in mobilephones, contains nickel, cadmium, and lead.  Try throwing a rechargable battery into a fire and you might turn out to be a victim of an explosion.  Lead as we all know can be deadly if it sips down to our drinking water.  The list goes on and on, I cannot identify them all.

The thing is, I guess we hold on these items longer than we want it to be, not realizing we are actually exposing ourselves to health hazards right inside our homes.  Let’s face it.  They were useful once and somehow became a part of us.  It’s become a sentimental value.  Memories are entrenched in these devices.  My first computer, my first television, my first radio, my first cellphone, so many firsts.  Maybe even special events or occasions.  Sometimes we even say its a collector’s item and think soon enough its value will become higher.  Well… collectors are a special breed of rare people, that are also fond of rare items on rare occassions.  Finding one will surely be a rare event.  But come on now, do we really actually have to keep these devices in our garage, closets, drawers, or basements, collecting dusts, and hope that someday they will become useful again?  What are the chances?

So going back to my question, how do we deal with e-waste?  Do we just give it to the garbage man and hope that he will dispose of it properly.  Poor guy, already earning a low salary, burdened with enough stench, and now exposed to additional health hazards.  No, I dont think so.  Most likely he will just throw it in the garbage pit like the rest without realizing the harm it can do.  I believe this is more than that.  We cannot just throw the problem to the poor garbage man.

E-waste is a product of modern industrial  production and machineries.  A lot of raw materials can be gathered if e-wastes can be collected properly for recycling.  Recycling in return saves our environment because we don’t have to cut more forests or dig more mines for minerals.  Therefore, collection and public awareness is the key in solving e-wastes.  Now that sounds too easy and simple.  Cultural aspect and society in general plays a big role here.  How can one expect the people in general to give up something if they do not wish to?  Do we need a law to address this?  Who will be the implementing agencies?  Shouldn’t the manufacturing companies also be involved in this since they made these products in the first place?  So many questions.

Maybe it is not really a problem after all.  Maybe a figment of my imagination or paranoia.  Because why think of a solution now when the problem has not yet occured?  Really?  It may not affect us now but soon enough it will,… if we are not careful.  Or maybe the next generation.  Let them suffer for our extravagance.  Maybe then they will say and blame us for not acting sooner.  For to them it may be too late to act.

3 Responses to “Electronic Waste – How do we deal with it?”

  1. ruprup Says:

    we’re very sentimental in nature with our electronic purchases because these were bought with hardwork and sacrifice. hehehe.

    and we have a knack for second hands – remember the ukay-ukay and the second-hand japanese appliance store in quiapo and other places.

    and in fact the second-hand phenomenon has reached a high-tech level – checkout bidshot and ebay philippines, daming second hand dun.

  2. ericdc Says:

    true… remember those old black and white tv in big wooden casings and stands, my grandmother still has it. its not working but she loves it so much its displayed in her sala. hehehe… there are also old cassette players and an old 486 computer.

    2nd hand stuff is good if you’re ok with it. nothing wrong in being frugal and practical. i’d be buying 2nd hand stuff too if i know i wont be spending much value for money wise and only as a temporary solution. di lang bidshot or ebay philippines, punta ka hmr dami din dun.

    but allowing ourselves to continue patronizing 2nd stuff dumped here from highly advanced industrial countries could result in us being the dumping ground. if we want to evolve and catch up with developed and industrialized economies, we should out grow our demand of 2nd hand stuff and learn to adapt new and emerging technologies.

  3. Ree Tanjuatco Says:

    Simple. First world countries throw their wastes to third world countries like the Philippines. Solution: Make the Philippines a First World country so we can dump our wastes to other third world countries. =P

    Seriously though, e-waste management should be a corporate responsibility. Those big companies spending billions of dollars making them should be responsible in recyclling them as well. The problem is this could be a potentially expensive undertaking and will hit their profits.

    BTW did you know that only 20% of the CFCs from refrigirators actually gets recycled? the rest are improperly disposed off and are released on air. And we all know what is the result of CFCs released on air… yeah Brain Damage err Ozone tragedy….


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