Quezon City. Following a recent field investigation at the Pier 18 dumpsite, the EcoWaste Coalition today pressed government regulators to act with urgency to avert a full-blown chemical and humanitarian crisis due to the improper disposal and recycling of electronic waste.
In a letter sent today to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) and the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), the EcoWaste Coalition alerted the agencies on the unchecked disposal of electronic waste in the municipal waste stream.
During their field visits on January 20-21, 2010, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers found waste reclaimers foraging mixed garbage to retrieve valuable recyclable materials such as discarded linear and compact fluorescent lamps, computer circuit boards and other electrical and electronic items, oblivious to the chemical risks and hazards.
“Our investigation confirms the apparent lack of regulation and system that will curb the improper disposal of e-waste and the perilous recycling taking place in dumpsites and junkshops,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).
Discarded electrical and electronic devices, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, contain several hundred materials, including many toxic and hazardous chemicals like beryllium, cadmium, lead, mercury, brominated flame retardants and polychlorinated biphenyls and should not be combined with regular waste.
Under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, household hazardous discards such as consumer electronics (cell phones, computers etc.), white goods (stoves, refrigerators, air-conditioners, TVs etc.), bulbs and batteries are classified as “special waste” that should be handled separately from other residential and commercial wastes.
“These toxic and hazardous chemicals in e-waste can endanger the health of informal recyclers and the people around them as well as contaminate the environment with toxic pollutants,” Dizon added.
“We are primarily worried about the exposure of children and pregnant and lactating women to heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury from recycling e-waste, which are extremely toxic even at low levels of exposure,” he emphasized.
Aside from the physical dismantling and recovery of recyclable components of e-waste, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers also noted with concern the polluting practice of burning electrical cables or cords to retrieve precious metal wires.
The EcoWaste Coalition has proposed to the DENR-EMB and the NSWMC to initiate a participatory process that will look at electronic and electrical products throughout their life cycle, from manufacture to disposal, and craft essential policies and solutions towards chemical safety and environmental health.
The waste and pollution watchdog also urged the agencies to look at the importation of near-end-of-life electrical and electronic products, which are then sold in so-called surplus stores, that ultimately add to the growing volume of e-waste nationwide.
The EcoWaste Coalition has put forward several policy options, including the enforcement of mandatory waste segregation at source, public information on the risks and hazards of e-waste disposal and recycling, the phase out of harmful substances in electrical and electronic products, the implementation of extended producer responsibility and the imposition of stricter rules to prevent the dumping of near-end-of-life and end-of-life electrical and electronic products into the country.
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