ELECTRONIC waste is growing in many parts of the world, including Malaysia, leading to high pollution rates. Electronic products are considered obsolete within a few years of usage and are disposed of. Massive quantities of these disposed products are often dumped at landfills and are incinerated or recycled under disorganised, unethical and unchecked environments.
According to the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, there is no formal system in place for household e-waste management although e-waste from the industries is controlled and regulated.
In fact, e-waste is collected by buyers, non-governmental organisations or collectors but many items are improperly dismantled that can cause environmental and health hazards.
Malaysia is estimated to generate 53 million pieces of e-waste in 2020 and, therefore, a proper system is required to control hazardous substances such as cadmium, mercury, chromium, zinc, lead, silver and copper found in e-waste, which should not be released into the environment.
Under these circumstances, it is timely to propose an E-Waste Management Model (EWMM), which can be directly applied in society to resolve the e-waste crisis.
The five dimensions of EWMM are:
REALISING: The lack of knowledge and awareness in managing the electronic garbage effectively holds cause for contaminating the air, water and soil. Moreover, human negligence while discarding software or hardware waste may lead to data and security breaches. It is important that every user is cautious about this critical issue and work towards resolving it. The Communications and Technology Industry has to be revamped in such a way that the key focus lies in reducing materialistic products and advancing virtualisation;
RESTORING: Electronic gadgets like personal computers, laptops, printers, tapes, televisions, monitors, videocassette recorders, stereos, fax machines, mobile phones and tablets that are damaged or considered outdated can be put to effective use rather than disposed of as trash. This can be done by simply making use of the working parts from a device and replacing the defective parts with working ones from other devices considered obsolete.
For example, a mobile phone that has a damaged display screen can be refurbished by replacing it with a display screen taken from any other unproductive mobile device. In this way, the usage and lifetime of electronic products can be increased, thus providing temporary solutions to avoid generating e-waste;
REACHING OUT: Individuals who are unable to find a way out of the e-waste crisis could get help from expert groups. Handling e-waste improperly may result in hazardous circumstances. Sometimes, it is observed that people tend to assume the wrong as the right thing to do. Therefore, it is highly recommended to always consult the authorities and stakeholders while handling electronic appliances that are considered junk. Certified third party teams address such issues with caution and help in providing optimised solutions;
REUSING: When an electronic appliance is considered to have reached the end of its consumption period and cannot be restored to a functional state, the product has to be disposed of to professionals for recycling. Similar electronic devices are produced from these discarded products.
For example, old computer drives can be handed out to organisations or directly to its manufacturer for recycling and to be reused. Often, the electronic garbage is recycled under controlled environments to reduce hazardous substances from being emitted while processing. By recycling electronic scrap materials the right way, permanent solutions are obtained to address the e-waste crisis; and,
REGENERATING: A novel way to put e-waste into good use is by innovating new products from the discarded gadgets. The value of waste generated from electronic goods is substantial. Ability to think differently eradicates critical situations of e-waste propagation. Developing a wallet from floppy disks, a key chain from keys of old keyboards and a cellphone holder or cardholder from discarded mother boards help to remodel the e-waste and give it a totally different outlook.
K. JAYARAMAN, Associate professor, Taylor’s Business School, Taylor’s University
SHRUTHI RAMAN, Programmer analyst, Cognizant Technology Solutions, Chennai, India