Environ ministry, Ecobatt tackle hazardous electronic waste storage issues

The environment ministry has called on the public to dispose of batteries and other electrical waste in the correct manner. - Environment Ministry

PHNOM PENH: The Ministry of Environment and Ecobatt Energy Cambodia have collected and securely stored tonnes of electrical and electronic waste, in a concerted effort to curb emissions of highly toxic substances and prevent serious health issues.

According to the ministry, these types of waste, including electronics and batteries, are considered hazardous and extremely poisonous, potentially causing damage to bones, kidneys, the nervous and immune systems, muscles and even affecting reproduction and foetal development, as they contain harmful elements like mercury, nickel, chromium and arsenic.

Khvay Atitya, undersecretary of state and spokesperson for the ministry, explains to The Post that the team has found that public access to environmental protection information through various media outlets has significantly increased awareness about waste disposal and its impact on the environment and health.

He notes that because of this, there has been a notable growth in people’s understanding of environmental protection.

“Their involvement in working with the ministry and other stakeholders in storing and separating hazardous wastes such as cell batteries ... and electrical waste, as well as kitchen waste, has notably increased,” he stated.

Atitya highlights that as of March 18, the collected waste included 2.26 tonnes of alkaline and lithium batteries, over 12.18 tonnes of lead acid batteries and 17.69 tonnes of electrical and electronic waste, including phones, computers, televisions, printers, photocopiers, among others.

He recalls that the collection of batteries began in August 2021, while the gathering of electronic waste started in January 2023.

Atitya confirms that the toxic refuse is stored properly in accordance with environmental safety technical standards at the company’s warehouse, which has received the necessary permit from the ministry.

He notes that some of the discarded electronics were repaired by the firm for reuse or disassembly to extract resources for export and recycling. As for cell batteries, he says it would be exported abroad for treatment, while the storage and disposal of other items takes place at the company’s facility.

Atitya states that in carrying out the waste management work, the ministry is adhering to the national legal guidelines and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, of which Cambodia is a signatory.

The spokesman mentions that Ecobatt plans to establish scrap processing plants in Cambodia in the future. He says the ministry’s team and the firm recently met with a representative from Hamaya Corporation, a Japanese company experienced in recycling electrical equipment, to collaborate on the effort.

“As a first step, we are working with gas stations and supermarkets to roll out the initiative. We will begin the work in Phnom Penh,” he explains.

He also notes that the ministry had initiated the cell battery collection mechanism in July 2021 by placing bins in various locations across the capital, including public and private institutions, gas stations, supermarkets, educational establishments, restaurants, banks, some business venues and in several provinces.

According to Atitya, a total of 187 bins have been placed in 150 locations to date, with 147 in Phnom Penh and 40 in the provinces.

He mentions that the owners of locations where they are placed can contact the ministry’s team or Ecobatt once a bin is full.

For electrical and electronic equipment, he says Ecobatt’s team will collect it from the owners once there are 10 or more unit and informed they could be contacted via mobile numbers 017 461 819, 011 399 122 or 011 999 910.

Ecobatt waste manager Chheuy Bona explains that his company collects waste such as refrigerators, TVs, telephones, air conditioners, washing machines, printers, photocopiers and electric stoves because people often discard these items without realising they contain toxic substances.

He elaborates that, for instance, televisions contain mercury and other chemicals. When exposed to sunlight and rain over time, they can react and emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide, depending on the equipment’s size. However, he says proper storage could mitigate their harmful effects.

Bona notes that the company collaborates with the ministry, various factories, banks, hospitals and a number of state institutions.

He mentions that while nearly 200 companies have joined Ecobatt in providing refuse, only 10 of these offer it freely without seeking any trade in return.

“In Cambodia, we do not yet have waste recycling machines for these items. The company [Ecobatt] only disassembles them and stores them safely. If the waste includes plastic, it is recycled into reusable materials. The waste collected by Ecobatt has not yet been exported abroad as the quantity is still relatively small,” he says. - The Phnom Penh Post/ANN

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Cambodia , waste , disposal , environment


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