Griffith School of Engineering, Senior Lecturer, Dr Sunil Herat delivered the keynote address at ‘The National Forum on E-waste (electronic waste) Management’ in Sri Lanka recently, where he spoke of the growing issue of e-waste and its damaging ramifications for health and the environment, especially in Asian countries.
Dr Herat, advisor to the United Nations on e-waste management in the Asia region, said developing countries, especially in Asia and Africa, are experiencing a major problem with the ever-increasing amount of e-waste.
“Developing countries lack the policies and infrastructure to deal with the issue in a sustainable way,” said Dr Herat.
According to Dr Herat, improving e-waste management is largely in the hands of the consumers, and education and awareness-raising is the only means of changing consumption patterns.
“Where possible, reuse should be encouraged ahead of recycling,” he said.
In his address, Dr Herat referred to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which is considered globally as one of the most powerful policy mechanisms to deal with the e-waste problem.
“Most developed countries have had lot of success implementing EPR related policies, though developing countries should design their own EPR schemes based upon their capacity to implement such schemes,” he said.
Such a scheme was implemented last year (2011) by the Central Environment Authority (CEA) in the form of the National E-waste Management Programme of Sri Lanka.
Here, the CEA collaborated with 14 private companies including manufacturers, importers and brand owners of the e-waste, to establish collecting mechanisms, whereby retailers of electronic goods facilitate the treatment of their own products once discarded by consumers.
Dr Herat believes manufacturers can further do their part by minimalising the toxic compounds used in producing electronic items such as computers, televisions, refrigerators and mobile phones.
These toxic pollutants, including lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury and polyvinyl chlorides (PVC), leak out over time, thereby having damaging health and environmental implications.
The forum, held 19 December 2011, was presided over by Sri Lanka’s Minister of Environment, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa and was prolific in raising Griffith’s profile in this area.
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