In the GCC, E-Waste likely to grow at three times the rate of general waste
Dubai-UAE: 30 January, 2011 – Discarded electronics – many of which use toxic materials such as cadmium, lead, mercury and polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) – form an alarmingly large and growing segment of household waste that the GCC churns out annually, according to experts at the ‘Green Brunch’ hosted by the Energy and Environment Park (ENPARK), a member of TECOM Investments’ Sciences Cluster.
Held in Dubai, speakers at the ‘Solid Waste Recycling and Management’ seminar noted that the GCC ranks among the fastest growing markets for electronic goods in the world, where older but functioning versions of products are quickly replaced with the ‘latest’ ones. Such trends directly feed the growing flow of e-waste which ends up in the region’s landfills. The problem is further compounded by a general absence of municipal infrastructure to deal with the recycling electronic waste and a low level of public awareness when it comes to its manifold hazards.
Ahmed Lootah, Senior Business Development Manager, ENPARK, said: “Thought is rarely given to the real environmental and health risks posed by e-waste. Discarded electronic gadgets should ideally never reach our landfills, but they do – and that is where they often leak their lethal contents into the surroundings. This heightens the risk of these elements returning to us through our food and water, in a particularly dangerous way.
“The Green Brunch series has successfully drawn our attention to some of the environmental hazards that need our urgent attention. This seminar on Solid Waste Management will serve a crucial purpose in highlighting an area of concern that is normally overlooked and not offered much priority.”
Electronics such as servers, computers, scanners, printers and cameras contain dangerous substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium and polybrominated niphenyls (PBBs). The latter can have adverse effects on health if released in the environment. Health risks may vary from irreversible damage to the brain and the kidneys to certain cancers, and to digestive and respiratory disorders.
Lootah added: “The decreasing prices of electronic equipment resulting in their greater affordability, combined with growing penetration of technology, has meant that increasing quantities of equipment are being used by us. Given the continuously shrinking life-span of electronic devices, the challenge of e-waste can be easily anticipated.”
Consumer trends in Western countries indicate that the amount of e-waste is likely to grow at three times the rate of other public waste. Although it accounts for only one to four per cent of municipal waste, e-waste may be responsible for as much as 70 per cent of the heavy metals in landfills, including 40 per cent of all lead.
“While corporates in the UAE are generally diligent about the appropriate disposal of waste, the huge challenge resides within the household domains that need to give importance to the proper segregation and disposal of e-waste. For this to happen, the municipalities need to introduce a workable infrastructure which educates and engages the public to mitigate the problem,” said KR Ajay Kumar, Senior Manager (Operations) at DULSCO, a Dubai-based organisation that specializes in waste management services.
Stuart Fleming, CEO of Enviroserve, a company specialising in environmental products, services and consultancy to aid best practices and savings in the region, said: “In some instances, landfills in the GCC are dangerously close to the shoreline, where marshlands and marine life are vulnerable to any seepage of e-waste toxins. In the UAE, water tables are not found at depths, which make them all the more susceptible to toxic elements that escape the landfills and permeate into the ground.”
As part of the Green Brunch series, ENPARK organised educational seminars on ‘Energy Efficiency’, ‘Green Retrofitting’ and ‘Water and Wastewater Management’ in 2010.
All seminars featured presentations and open debates to help raise awareness of new energy and environment-related technologies as well as solutions available in the regional market. The events drew enthusiastic participation from the local building industry, business communities and government.
ENPARK, the Energy and Environment Park, a member of TECOM Investments, is a Free Zone spanning over 8 million square feet of office, research centre, residential, educational and leisure facilities located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. ENPARK is a special destination for clean energy and environmental technology companies to operate and a fully-integrated knowledge community that includes programs, services, partnerships and amenities to support the success of environment companies and their employees. Combing the unique assets of being at the heart of the international hub for the Region with the exclusive experience of a sustainable community, ENPARK’s ambition is to offer a world class sustainable lifestyle and build a sustainable culture. For more information, please visit: www.enpark.ae