EcoWaste Coalition Issues Tips to Reduce E-Waste during Christmas Shopping Rush

As numerous consumers scour the net or survey
shops for the latest in home and personal electronics, an environmental
organization was quick to remind consumers to do their part to minimize
electronic waste, or e-waste, as Christmas shopping shoots up.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental organization promoting zero waste and
chemical safety, issued the reminder as many people look forward to upgrading
their electrical appliances and gadgets with something “smarter” or gifting
their loved ones with electronics this yuletide season.

“Home and consumer electronics are among the favorite things that people buy
during the holiday season.  It’s no secret that many save portions of
their 13th month pay or Christmas bonus to get new cell phones or gadgets for
themselves or for others,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste

“Many also cash in on Christmas sales to get must-have computers and appliances
at more affordable prices,” she said.

Unknown to many people, the Christmas shopping bonanza is adding to the nation’s
ever growing volume of e-waste such as worn cell phones, dead computers, broken
gadgets, spent batteries and  lamps, old
TVs, DVD players and other appliances, and even functioning but outdated
cameras, game
consoles and phones and accessories.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “e-waste is one
of the fastest growing waste streams in developed as well as in developing
countries,” generating up to 50 million tons annually  with only a 10 percent recycling rate.”

With the rapid pace in digitalization and innovation and the unabated consumer
appetite for the latest in technology inventions, e-waste is surely to rise
with the high-tech boom.

“Throwing used or unwanted electronics in the trash bin or the dump, burning or
recycling them in unsafe conditions can release highly toxic chemicals, which
can contaminate our drinking water, our food supply and even our workers and
communities,” Lucero warned.

Among the toxic materials and substances in e-waste are flame retardant chemicals,
phthalates and polyvinyl chloride in cable insulation and plastic housing,
arsenic in light emitting diodes, cadmium in printer inks and toners and drums,
chromium in data tapes and floppy disks, lead in batteries, cathode ray tube
(CRT) and wiring boards, mercury in fluorescent lamps, relays and switches,
polychlorinated biphenyls in condensers and transformers, etc.

According to “Vital Waste Graphics,” a publication of UNEP and the Basel Convention
Secretariat,  average a computer is 23% plastic, 32% ferrous metals, 18%
non-ferrous metals (lead, cadmium, antimony, beryllium, chromium and mercury),
12% electronic boards (gold, palladium, silver and
platinum) and 15% glass.

A mobile phone, on the other hand, can contain over 40 elements including heavy
metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), metals representing about 23%
of the weight of the phone with the remaining 77% being plastics and ceramic
materials, as per UNEP.

As said by UNEP, “inappropriate methods like open burning, which are often used
by the informal sector to recover valuable materials, have heavy impacts on
human health and the environment.”

Harmful emissions of hazardous substances, explained UNEP, mainly come from:
 1) the product itself (if landfilled) such as lead in circuit boards or
CRT glass, and mercury in liquid crystal display (LCD) backlights; 2)
substandard processes resulting to dioxin formation during burning of
halogenated plastics or use of smelting processes without suitable off-gas
treatment; and 3) reagents used in the recycling process such as cyanide and
other strong leaching acids, nitrogen oxides (NOx) gas from leaching processes
and mercury from amalgamation.

To prevent the generation of e-waste that forms part of the ubiquitous holiday
trash, or “holitrash” as the EcoWaste Coalition puts it, more problematic both
in volume and toxicity, consumers are invited to consider the following tips
from the group:

1.  Don’t go with the flow.  Try extending the life of your existing electronics
and gadgets instead of buying new ones. Consider whether you truly need to get
new ones before rushing to buy the latest stuff.  Watch the “Story of Electronics”
video, which tells the story about where our gadgets come from, and how the
things we buy impacts our planet: http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-electronics/

2.  Have broken electronics repaired to give them a new lease of life. Our
ingenious electricians and technicians can almost fix everything for reasonable

3.  Have outdated component of an electronic product refurbished or upgraded
instead of buying an entirely new replacement.

4.  Never dispose of unwanted electronics with ordinary trash.  Pass
them on to relatives and friends in need for reuse. What might be of no use to you,
might come in handy for some people.

5.  Collect spent household batteries, cellphone batteries, fluorescent lamps,
empty ink cartridges and the like, labeled and safely stored in a container
with cover and kept out of reach of children and pets.  These should be
safely managed or disposed of in an environmentally-sound manner and not mixed
with regular waste.

6.  Donate usable electronics like computers and laptops in good condition
to charities and schools or give to your neighbors.

7.  Visit the manufacturer’s website or call the dealer to find out if they
have a takeback program or scheme for your discarded electronics.

8.  Earn from your e-waste.  List it on sulit.com.ph or
consider appropriate recycling options.  Contact the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources – Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB)
for advice on environmentally-safe recycling options.

9.  If you really need to spend for new electronics, choose items with less
hazardous substances, with greater recycled content, with higher energy
efficiency, with longer life span and those that will produce less waste:

a.  Scan through Greenpeace International’s Guide to Greener Electronics, ranking
top manufactures of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles
according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.
 Search the Internet for other green purchasing tools.

b. Find products that have the RoHS logo – an indicator that a product complies
with the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances, which restricts
the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of
electronic and electrical equipment.  These restricted chemicals are
cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, polybrominated biphenyls, and
polybrominated biphenyl ethers.

c. Find the product with the specifications that you need and one that can be
easily upgraded with the rapid technological advancements.

d. Look for the Energy Star label, indicating that the product is energy efficient,
conserving electricity use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked with
energy production and use.

e. If battery operated, look for rechargeable instead of disposable batteries.

f. Go for products with good warranty and takeback policies.

g.  Avoid buying imported, used or surplus electronics as they are certainly
discarded for being near obsolete by the country of source and they don’t have

10.  Take good care of your electronic device – whether it’s brand new, refurbished
or hand-me down – as sound maintenance will prolong its lifespan.  Read
the instruction manual carefully and get acquainted  and trained on easy fix-it-yourself guide.