Bangladesh’s environment threatened by poor e-waste management

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Poor e-waste management in Bangladesh poses a threat to the environment, causing land degradation and water contamination with heavy and toxic base metals, experts say.

Bangladesh generates 3 million metric tons of e-waste annually and therefore needs a recycling plan for e-waste generation, said a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Sustainable Technology, and Entrepreneurship.

Leachate, or highly contaminated liquid from discarded e-waste, contains heavy metals and toxic organic materials that are harmful to animals, humans and the environment, study finds Bangladesh “lacks appropriate legislation and systematic strategies for the management of e-waste”.

The Soil Resource Development Institute of Bangladesh has said that 5% organic matter in the soil is best, while it requires a minimum of 2%. But Bangladesh has now fallen to less than 2%.

Poor waste management

Md. Anwarul Abedin, a professor in the Department of Soil Science at Bangladesh Agricultural University, told Anadolu Agency that due to poor waste management, e-waste has affected landfills and the environment. .

“We found toxic heavy metals, chemicals and microplastics in soil and landfills above the allowable level. When heavy metals contaminate the soil, they replace microbes, good bacteria and nutrients needed by plants in the soil,” he said.

Contaminated soil also inhibits the growth of necessary plants, he said, noting that when e-waste contaminates water, it quickly spreads to groundwater and other surface water sources during the rainy season. .

“E-waste also contains plastics and we found the presence of microplastics in the soils of the coastal hills – collected from the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. The level of microplastics in the soil samples collected was significantly higher”, did he declare.

“We also found that plants absorb these heavy metals from contaminated soil and they remain in food grains. Heavy metals like chromium and nickel can change the color of the soil,” he said, referring to the conditions faced by the Dhaleshwari River due to industrial waste in the nation’s capital city of Savar. Dhaka.

Shahriar Hossain, Secretary General of the Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), said: “Electronic waste is supposed to be collected separately. Authorities must ensure source segregation when collecting waste from homes in the city before keeping the waste in secondary transfer stations (STS). He alleged that the municipal authority and the environmental department do not provide it.

“There are some 32 distinct heavy metals, including lead, chromium, cadmium and copper and plastic additives, which are found in electronic waste, and 18 of these can enter the human body directly through the food chain and people can develop diseases like cancer,” he said.

Heavy metals like lead, cadmium, nickel and manganese were found in Dhaka’s four landfills and in samples of crops grown near these landfills, according to another study published last year in the journal Applied. WaterScience.

Recycling can reduce electronic waste generation

“Electronic waste is not waste but a resource if we can manage it properly. Valuable and necessary materials from these obsolete products can be collected through proper waste management,” said Rowshan Momtaz, Professor of Civil Engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

“Much of the precious metals in e-waste is exported due to poor e-waste management. If we can ensure source segregation, it will help informal recycling to collect e-waste and reduce overall e-waste generation, paving the way for the development of a formal e-waste industry in the country,” suggested Momtaz.

“The informal recycling industry dominates the sector, where e-waste is often burned in factories, which poses dangerous occupational health risks,” Hossain said.

To counter, experts have advocated expanding business support, such as government incentives, to establish a formal e-waste recycling industry that will also ensure environmental or occupational safety.

The government sets rules to manage electronic waste

Abdul Hamid, director general of the Ministry of Environment, told Anadolu Agency that the government has an e-waste management policy at the collection and management levels. He said his department monitors and enforces the policy in the implementation phase.

The Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s 2021 hazardous waste (e-waste) management rules state that waste generated by electrical and electronic products must be taken back by the manufacturer or assembler.

No electronic waste can be stored for more than 180 days, and old or used electrical and electronic products cannot be imported, according to the rules.

Hossain, however, said the rules or policies are idle in the implementation phase.

Hamid said his “department is not responsible for promoting the e-waste recycling industry in the country, nor does it have any program to provide incentives to the sector.”

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