February 2, 2023, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Growing volume of e-waste generation demands appropriate policies and knowledge to manage

The Nepal Weekly
January 10, 2023

By Purna N. Ranjitkar

Used and thrown out electric and electronic equipment is simply known as e-waste.

Technology, design and facilities within the electronic products are changing rapidly. So as the users cannot stop to get the equipment or gadgets. They want immediately to possess them.  That is one reason that e-wastes are generated in growing volume. Likewise, falling prices, and planned obsolescence have resulted in a fast-growing surplus of electronic waste around the globe. The most voluminous items are said to be TV sets, computer sets, mobile phones, household appliances and equipment.

Technical solutions are available, but in most cases, a legal framework, a collection, logistics, and other services need to be implemented before a technical solution can be applied. The e-waste problem could potentially be solved with modular smart phones or phonebooks. These types of phones are more durable and have the technology to change certain parts of the phone making them more environmentally friendly.

As e-waste are non-bio-degradable and cause harmful effects on environment, humans, animals and plants due to their radioactive and other heath affecting, polluting properties.

Reuse is the method by which one can use many important e-wastes again and again without spending money on new materials. Also, this will help save some economy of country like Nepal where everything has to be imported from other countries.

E-waste is found to be an integral part of the existing solid waste management chain and, therefore, needs to be addressed collectively. Challenges and opportunities towards building a sustainable system for managing e-waste, and offer propositions for a resource-oriented waste management system is posing.

However, Nepal has yet to fully realize e-waste as problem which could be multiplied in near future. The need for proper e-waste management has increased in the country, more so in the capital, where almost all households have multiple sets of mobile phone, radio, television, computer, and other electronic devices. Thus, strong and appropriate policies to managed e-waste have been a must now.

Likewise, Lead Acid Batteries are one other big risk bearing item in Nepal. They are used in vehicles, electricity back up and as solar electricity storing devices. Around 40% batteries are manufactured in Nepal while 60% are imported. After life of lead acid batteries acid filled in batteries is disposed in the soil without any treatment. The open disposing of acid of batteries fully damages the soil for 100 years, experts say.

Experts argue that plastic products have been taken as the biggest issue in Nepal and rest of the world. Almost all consumer items are made of plastic and plastic based products including angioplasty, the device used for serious heart patients is made of plastic. As such, people need to use properly and efficiently as most of electric and electronic devices are made of plastic and, metals and toxic chemicals, they need to be recycled so as e-waste could cause minimum negative impacts to human life and nature. Thus, the state regulations must be abiding devices manufacturers to be responsible. As such, effective regulation in this regards is also sought by experts.

Individuals or institutions that generate e-waste are identified as electrical and electronic appliance manufacturers, business houses, institutions, government offices, house-hold applications, small business, and repair shops. Thus, the biggest problem with regard to e-waste management is the lack of proper laws in the country, experts argue. The users who cannot remain without getting best of latest gadget must be aware. Experts also warn that impacts of e-wastes in human and environment cause cancer, reproductive disorder due to poisonous gases released during incineration. Fatigue, appetite loss, muscular pain, headache, lung cancer, nervous system failure, skin irritation, memory loss are some e-waste born maladies. Soil gets quality deteriorated by many metal ions and poisonous materials, polymer resin, become acidic, infertility. Likewise water sources get contaminated. And many more such undesirable impacts take place due to haphazard dumping of e-waste.

Although Nepal generates e-waste in a small amount, the volume of e-waste generating in country is sure to grow rapidly than as of present day.

The electric cooking devices imported for domestic uses are growing rapidly to replace use of LPG, extend use of electricity generated in the country, avoid indoor air pollution and air pollution caused diseases. The matter relates to support climate actions as well. The electric induction cook tops and infrared cook tops are imported in a large number to use. Hundreds of thousand units of such devices are already turned to scraps and additional hundreds of thousand units of such devices will turn to scrap within coming two to three years. They will need to be well addressed as part of managing e-waste in Nepal.

Similarly, Nepal has been started importing electric vehicles powered by Lithium batteries. The batteries used usually serve active life for 5 to 8 years. After the given expected life time, they will need to be replaced, repaired to give a longer life or use them as energy storage  devices to charge by hydropower in the night time or by Solar PV in the day time and utilise in the peak electricity demand hours.

The concerned government authorities and private parties are not seen serious on management of the waste generated out of electric cooking devices and electric vehicles.

Thus, policies to be formulated on e-waste issues should not miss management of used lead acid batteries, used electric cooking devices and batteries of electric vehicles.