ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Climate Change has invited proposals to help it develop a policy document for the environmentally sound management of electronic waste in the country.

The ministry has said that the rapid growth of the electronics industry and high rate of obsolescence of electronic products leads to the generation of huge quantities of electronic waste, or e-waste. The recycling of e-waste that does not conform to environmentally friendly methods is a key challenge in society.

Senior Joint Secretary Hamad Shamimi told Dawn that, like other parts of the world, Pakistan too is facing serious challenges due to the growth in volume of e-waste.

He said that Pakistan is notrecycling its own e-waste properly and safely, and it is also a dumping ground for e-waste from other countries. Further aggravating the situation is the lack of awareness of the environmental, social and economic impact amongst various stakeholders.

Channelising e-waste for proper recycling and establishing a system of accountability in e-waste management can happen if effective policy and awareness is established among consumers, manufactures, recycling plants, government and corporate sectors, as well as the younger generations in schools and colleges.

“Desktops and mobile phones are simply dumped in the regular trash. An unregulated sector extracts precious and semi-precious metals such as gold, silver, copper, aluminium and cadmium and burns the plastic along roadsides and along river banks, without realising that the practice is injurious to health and environmentally damaging,” Mr Shamimi said.

To a question, he explained that there are absolutely no statistics or data on the amounts of e-waste being generated across the country.

He explained that affluent Pakistani society generates massive amounts of e-waste. Cities such as Karachi, Gujrat and Gujranwala are known as places where the informal sector that extracts parts and burns plastic, using unhygienic and environmentally unfriendly methods, thrives.

“The ministry has sought help from the private sector that will do a study on how other countries are disposing of their e-waste. The United States and countries in Europe have also recently started taking this seriously. The comparisons will help the government develop a policy on how to regulate e-waste in the same way it regulated the use of plastic bags in the country,” he said.

According to an official in the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency, the environmentally hazardous practice of extracting precious and semi-precious metals from junked desk tops and mobile phones is also carried out on the outskirts of Islamabad.

“Batteries from the junked mobile phones are simply thrown away in the regular trash,” he said.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2020

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