E-waste including unused mobile phones pose threat to environment in Malaysia

There are millions of unused and obsolete handphones with Malaysians that are posing a real threat to the environment. Several Malaysians just throw e-waste such as mobile phones and discarded tablets into the dustbins, and they end up in landfills where the minerals and materials inside can leak out.
Siegfried Springer, pixelio.de

Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission’s head of technology development Badaruzzaman Mat Nor said that millions of mobile phones in the country “are either lying at home unused or worse, in landfills after they are thrown away and the figure does not even include unregistered or underwater mobile phones.

Industrial research and technology organisation Sirim QAS has found that there were about 65.7 million mobile phones in the Malaysian market up until 2014.

Yasmin Rasyid, president and founder of environmental organization EcoKnights, said that e-waste constituted waste other than mobile phones, such as thumb drives, gaming consoles and electronic gadgets of any kind.

“From laptops to desktops, household items like microwaves, TVs, monitors, printers, computer peripherals, VCRs/DVD players, gaming systems, MP3 players, scanners, fax machines and small scale servers are all e-waste,” Ms. Rasyid said.

She added that electronics contain toxic materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and beryllium that must be properly managed to prevent soil and groundwater contamination.

A 2010 research by the National Hydraulic Research Institute of Malaysia (Nahrim) stated that there were 20 landfill sites in the state. Thirteen of these 20 sites were closed at the time of research and seven are still operating.

Only five landfill sites in the country are equipped with groundwater monitoring wells and the monitors showed higher than standard parameters for groundwater quality.

“This indicates that the groundwater within and surrounding the landfills are contaminated by the leachate,” said the study. “More than 70% of the landfills are located within 100m from streams or rivers,” the study added.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency said in a paper that groundwater contamination could cause “poor drinking water quality, loss of water supply, degraded surface water systems, high cleanup costs, high costs for alternative water supplies, and/or potential health problems.”

“As technology continues to advance, so has the amount of e-waste being produced globally with nearly 41 million tonnes of electronics being tossed out each year,” said Ms. Yasmin. “With the alarmingly large amount of this type of refuse, there is a problem over how it’s dealt with,” Ms. Yasmin added.


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