Discarding ewaste responsibly for planet’s survival

Thangaveloo with some of his electronic items at Lorong Kulit.

When electronic waste (ewaste) is disposed of responsibly, one is not only helping the environment but also contributing to a circular economy where resources are used efficiently and waste is minimised.

In Penang, there are 72 centres that deal with ewaste, with some located in community centres, factories and business premises.

Penang Green Council general manager Josephine Tan Mei Ling said 36 were on the island – 11 in the southwest district and 25 in the northeast district.

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She added that the rest were on the mainland – five in south Seberang Perai, 24 in central Seberang Perai and seven in north Seberang Perai.

Looking ahead, she said PGC would continue to pave the way towards a more eco-conscious and resilient future for Penang and its people.

A worker separating electronic components at Techom Metal in Bukit Minyak. — Photos: ZHAFARAN NASIB/The StarA worker separating electronic components at Techom Metal in Bukit Minyak. — Photos: ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

Global concern

With the increasing production of electrical and electronic products, Tan said ewaste had emerged as a pressing global concern.

She said the volume of ewaste required proper disposal and management.

“When ewaste is discarded irresponsibly, such as being dumped into rivers, landfills, burned or sent to informal sectors, it poses significant risks to human life and health, as well as contributes to the degradation of environmental quality.

“If ewaste is not disposed of properly, toxic materials such as mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, bromine and beryllium can seep into the soil and water, endangering aquatic and human life,” she said.

She added that since ewaste was a combination of several materials, it could take years to decompose.

Once they break down, they release toxic chemicals into the soil, which then contaminates the plants and trees, said Tan.

She said this could result in air and water pollution.

“In most cases, ewaste often ends up in incinerators.

“It is composed of plastics, glass and metals, which can produce dangerous emissions when burnt.

“Uncontrolled burning could result in an increased rate of ozone depletion and greenhouse gases, leading to worsening global warming and climate change,” she pointed out.

Tan said apart from being sent to landfill and furnaces, ewaste could end up in the ocean.

She said as ewaste was non- biodegradable, it could be deadly to marine organisms, disturbing natural marine biodiversity and at some point, harm the ecosystem.

“In some serious situations, the presence of toxins can damage the ecosystem to a point where recovery seems impossible,” she added.

Raising public awareness

Valuable resources too, such as gold, copper, palladium and silver can be recovered through recycling.Dass sends his ewaste to recycling centres in Karpal Singh Drive.Dass sends his ewaste to recycling centres in Karpal Singh Drive.

Tan said it was important to recycle ewaste because it helped to conserve some of these valuable resources.

In raising public awareness, she said PGC had in 2013 introduced House-to-House Education Campaign, a monthly programme carried out via home visits by PGC team and Green Helper (volunteers).

“In 2016, the education campaign was renamed to Waste Segregation at Source Campaign in conjunction with the implementation of the Waste Segregation at Source Policy by Penang government.

“From 2017 to 2019, PGC collaborated with the private sector to integrate ewaste collection into the campaign, educating the public on the importance of safe e-waste disposal.

“During the campaign, flyers were given to the residents while Green Helper provided explanations in a more casual way,” she added.

Tan said campaign posters and information boards were used to inform residents about ewaste collection points and date of collection.

“Residents would bring their ewaste to these designated areas and sell them at market price,” she said.

To encourage Penang folk to recycle, she said PGC also introduced Trash Free Penang in 2022.

She said the community-building initiatives brought agencies and elected representatives together to actively promote and coordinate volunteerism in Penang and engage with the state’s population.

Last year, PGC also collaborated with Riiicycle Sdn Bhd to introduce an educational camp themed “Ewaste Warrior” for primary and secondary schools.

Tan said these immersive experiences were crafted to educate and instil students with a sense of environmental stewardship.

Through interactive sessions, students were taught proper ewaste disposal and gained insight into vital components within electronic waste.

According to the Environment Department, ewaste is defined as a broken, non-functioning or old/obsolete electronic appliance such as television, computer, air-conditioner, washing machine or refrigerator.Mobile phones are among thousands of items collected for recycling in Bukit Minyak.Mobile phones are among thousands of items collected for recycling in Bukit Minyak.

In Malaysia, ewaste is categorised as Scheduled Wastes under Code SW110, First Schedule, Environmental Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations 2005.

It is generally divided into two main types, according to its generation sources, which are industrial and household sectors.

Tan said that through collaboration with its partners under Trash Free Project, ewaste weighing 5,900kg had been collected at eight stations.

As of mid-April this year, 1,700kg have been collected.

Proper disposal

Retiree S. Thangaveloo, 63, who is selling second-hand electronic items in Lorong Kulit, said many people knew how to dispose of ewaste nowadays.

“In the past, I could easily get second-hand electronic items to sell at my stall.

“But now, with more people knowing how to properly dispose of ewaste, it is becoming rare to find these items,” he said.

Thangaveloo added that while he supported the environmental benefits of these practices, the lack of second-hand electronic items meant he needed to adapt and find new ways to sustain his livelihood.

Toy trader Simon Peter Dass Arul, 57, sends his ewaste to recycling centres in Karpal Singh Drive.

He said that through this method, he could also help the environment.

He added that everyone should know ewaste contained dangerous elements that could seep into the soil and waterways.

To check for the nearest ewaste recycling or buy-back centre in Penang, go to www.pgc.com.my/2020/zero-waste-network-zwn/

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