09 December 2013

EcoWaste Coalition Issues Tips to Reduce E-Waste during Christmas Shopping Rush

As numerous consumers scour the net or survey shops for the latest in home and personal electronics, an environmental organization was quick to remind consumers to do their part to minimize electronic waste, or e-waste, as Christmas shopping shoots up.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental organization promoting zero waste and chemical safety, issued the reminder as many people look forward to upgrading their electrical appliances and gadgets with something “smarter” or gifting their loved ones with electronics this yuletide season.

“Home and consumer electronics are among the favorite things that people buy during the holiday season.  It’s no secret that many save portions of their 13th month pay or Christmas bonus to get new cell phones or gadgets for themselves or for others,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Many also cash in on Christmas sales to get must-have computers and appliances at more affordable prices,” she said.

Unknown to many people, the Christmas shopping bonanza is adding to the nation’s ever growing volume of e-waste such as worn cell phones, dead computers, broken gadgets, spent batteries and  lamps, old TVs, DVD players and other appliances, and even functioning but outdated cameras, game
consoles and phones and accessories.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in developed as well as in developing countries,” generating up to 50 million tons annually  with only a 10 percent recycling rate.”

With the rapid pace in digitalization and innovation and the unabated consumer appetite for the latest in technology inventions, e-waste is surely to rise with the high-tech boom.

“Throwing used or unwanted electronics in the trash bin or the dump, burning or recycling them in unsafe conditions can release highly toxic chemicals, which can contaminate our drinking water, our food supply and even our workers and communities,” Lucero warned.

Among the toxic materials and substances in e-waste are flame retardant chemicals, phthalates and polyvinyl chloride in cable insulation and plastic housing, arsenic in light emitting diodes, cadmium in printer inks and toners and drums, chromium in data tapes and floppy disks, lead in batteries, cathode ray tube (CRT) and wiring boards, mercury in fluorescent lamps, relays and switches, polychlorinated biphenyls in condensers and transformers, etc.

According to “Vital Waste Graphics,” a publication of UNEP and the Basel Convention Secretariat,  average a computer is 23% plastic, 32% ferrous metals, 18% non-ferrous metals (lead, cadmium, antimony, beryllium, chromium and mercury), 12% electronic boards (gold, palladium, silver and
platinum) and 15% glass.

A mobile phone, on the other hand, can contain over 40 elements including heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), metals representing about 23% of the weight of the phone with the remaining 77% being plastics and ceramic materials, as per UNEP.

As said by UNEP, “inappropriate methods like open burning, which are often used by the informal sector to recover valuable materials, have heavy impacts on human health and the environment.”

Harmful emissions of hazardous substances, explained UNEP, mainly come from:  1) the product itself (if landfilled) such as lead in circuit boards or CRT glass, and mercury in liquid crystal display (LCD) backlights; 2) substandard processes resulting to dioxin formation during burning of halogenated plastics or use of smelting processes without suitable off-gas treatment; and 3) reagents used in the recycling process such as cyanide and other strong leaching acids, nitrogen oxides (NOx) gas from leaching processes and mercury from amalgamation.

To prevent the generation of e-waste that forms part of the ubiquitous holiday trash, or “holitrash” as the EcoWaste Coalition puts it, more problematic both in volume and toxicity, consumers are invited to consider the following tips from the group:

1.  Don’t go with the flow.  Try extending the life of your existing electronics and gadgets instead of buying new ones. Consider whether you truly need to get new ones before rushing to buy the latest stuff.  Watch the “Story of Electronics” video, which tells the story about where our gadgets come from, and how the things we buy impacts our planet:

2.  Have broken electronics repaired to give them a new lease of life. Our ingenious electricians and technicians can almost fix everything for reasonable fees.

3.  Have outdated component of an electronic product refurbished or upgraded instead of buying an entirely new replacement.

4.  Never dispose of unwanted electronics with ordinary trash.  Pass them on to relatives and friends in need for reuse. What might be of no use to you, might come in handy for some people.

5.  Collect spent household batteries, cellphone batteries, fluorescent lamps, empty ink cartridges and the like, labeled and safely stored in a container with cover and kept out of reach of children and pets.  These should be safely managed or disposed of in an environmentally-sound manner and not mixed with regular waste.

6.  Donate usable electronics like computers and laptops in good condition to charities and schools or give to your neighbors.

7.  Visit the manufacturer’s website or call the dealer to find out if they have a takeback program or scheme for your discarded electronics.

8.  Earn from your e-waste.  List it on
sulit.com.ph or consider appropriate recycling options.  Contact the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) for advice on environmentally-safe recycling options.

9.  If you really need to spend for new electronics, choose items with less hazardous substances, with greater recycled content, with higher energy efficiency, with longer life span and those that will produce less waste:

a.  Scan through Greenpeace International’s Guide to Greener Electronics, ranking top manufactures of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.  Search the Internet for other green purchasing tools.

b. Find products that have the RoHS logo – an indicator that a product complies with the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances, which restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment.  These restricted chemicals are cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated biphenyl ethers.

c. Find the product with the specifications that you need and one that can be easily upgraded with the rapid technological advancements.

d. Look for the Energy Star label, indicating that the product is energy efficient, conserving electricity use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked with energy production and use.

e. If battery operated, look for rechargeable instead of disposable batteries.

f. Go for products with good warranty and takeback policies.

g.  Avoid buying imported, used or surplus electronics as they are certainly discarded for being near obsolete by the country of source and they don't have warranties.

10.  Take good care of your electronic device – whether it’s brand new, refurbished or hand-me down - as sound maintenance will prolong its lifespan.  Read the instruction manual carefully and get acquainted  and trained on easy fix-it-yourself guide.






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