Country’s telecom regulator Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) plans to take steps to ensure proper electronic waste (e-waste) management of such stuff as handsets, computers and electrical gadgets, as their causal disposal poses a risk to the environment and public health.
BTRC chairman Jahurul Haque said, “This is a problem that needs to be resolved immediately. We are trying to make a regulation for e-waste management so that these items are not dumped haphazardly. We are now in the era of 4G. After introduction of 5G, we will switch to full automation. Then the amount of e-waste will increase.”
The commission is yet to decide on the spending of a part of the social obligation fund (SOF) on e-waste management, BTRC sources said.
According to a report by The Independent, environmentalists say the increasing use of electrical and electronic devices in the country poses a big threat to the environment and public health. They stress the need for effective management of e-waste such as handsets, computers and electrical items.
According to a study conducted by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, the growth rate of e-waste generation is about 20 per cent per year.
The e-waste contains a number of toxic substances, including lead, chromium and plastic additives. So, their indiscriminate dumping poses health and environmental risks.
In February, the BTRC had considered spending a part of the social obligation fund (SOF), created with contributions from telecom operators, on e-waste management.
According to the Telecom Act, the SOF can be used only to extend telecom facilities in remote areas.
The study carried out last year found that the amount of e-waste rose to 4 lakh tonnes in 2018 from 1.30 lakh tonnes in 2010. The volume is projected to be 46.2 lakh tonnes by 2035.
Recycling of scrap and second-hand electrical equipment is a profitable business in developing countries like Bangladesh, and 13,300 tonnes of e-waste enter the recycling business every year, the study says.
Common sources of e-waste include television sets, air-conditioners, computers, mobile phones, IT equipment, CFL bulbs, fridges, and electric fans.
Such items contain precious metals such as gold, silver, copper, iron, and heavy metals. But they may also contain mercury and lead, two of the most hazardous metals for human health.
The most common disposal method is the burning of the waste in open pits. But this method releases toxic substances into the ecosystem and prevents extraction of valuable metals from the waste materials. Stakeholders, therefore, say a proper system is long overdue.