“E-wastes” are broken, non-working or obsolete electric and electronic appliance.
Electrical and electronic waste is growing exponentially worldwide because of tremendous growth of demands and a high obsolescence rate on the use of electrical and electronic equipment. Globally, 50 million metric tons of e-waste is estimated to be generated in 2018 (Baldé C.P. et al, 2015). Meanwhile, based on the projection made by Ministry of Environment Japan (MOEJ) the total amount discarded E-waste will be increased by an average of 14% annually in Malaysia, and by the year 2020, a total of 1.17 billion units or 21.38 million tons of E-waste will be generated.
As reported by WHO, the total amount of e-waste produced is exponentially increasing because of multiple and interlinked factors which are development, technology, human mentality and population. Apart from that, one of the major factor of growing e-waste problem is the short lifespan of most electronic products which is less than
two years for computers and cell phones.
The disposal of E-waste is also increasing and becoming a big concern discussed at international arena, because of the nature of waste hazardous and disposal in a globalized world. Economic challenges and lack of the infrastructure for proactive management of hazardous wastes has worsened the impact of e-waste to nature and public health.
E-waste is a serious environmental problem, from toxic chemicals and heavy metals leaching into soils in landfills, to the pollution to air and water supplies. For instance, burning to recover metal from wires and cables leads to emissions of brominated and chlorinated dioxins which causing air pollution. Soils become toxic when substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are deposited in landfills and indirectly the toxic industrial effluent is seeps into underground aquifers and seriously affects the local groundwater quality.
Meanwhile in terms of health hazard few studies have been done. For instance, according to Environmental Research Letters, found that the dismantling workers of e-waste from Taizhou of Zhejiang province in China breath in constantly, cause inflammation and stress that lead to heart disease, DNA damage and possibly even cancer. Common toxic components found in mobile devices and the damage they can cause to human health are cadmium, lithium, mercury and lead. Acute exposure to cadmium, found in semiconductors and chip resistors, can damage the kidneys and liver and cause bone loss. Long-term exposure to lead on printed circuit boards and computer and television screens can damage the central and peripheral nervous system and kidneys.
Therefore, awareness pertaining to e-waste is relatively low amongst Malaysians and e-waste expert Dr Tan Ching Seong relayed to The Star that not a single local community in the Klang Valley has established an effective method in managing e-waste. Most of them are not certain on how to manage their e-waste properly whether to sell to the recyclers or to keep at their home for as long as they could.
Thus, a robust and extensive awareness campaign on e-waste management should be done among public and school children so that they are aware of the impact of improper e-waste management to their public health and environment. Public should be well informed by the NGO and authority on how to manage their e-waste so that it will not be dumped at landfills.
Nur Imani binti Abdullah
Forum Air Malaysia