E-waste is the flip side of achievements of electronic technology
And what about being posted on all the world events, always and everywhere, by having a modern 3G smartphone with all the imaginable information like books, films and more at our fingertips? The Internet began to penetrate all parts of our lives and electronic equipment without access to the Internet doesn’t command former appeal. Well, what about gadgets that no longer satisfy modern trends? Loyal to their old technology people wait until their favourite tech-items become useless and the repair team says that fixing it will cost more than buying a new one. But even after this harsh verdict the owner doesn’t want to part with it. The unwritten law dictates that old equipment must gather dust in the closet, then in the pantry, and only after a certain period of time the owner will, with heart-wrenching efforts, throw the once beloved phone in the rubbish bin... Obviously, from the dumpster the phone together with a bunch of other electronics would find its way to the landfill … Nobody reflects on further possible negative consequences this will lead to. To make technology function properly manufacturers include specific materials in their composition, which in its normal operation don’t have any harmful effects. But on the dump site and under rain, broken and thus dangerous substances make their way into soil and ground water, polluting the environment. As we know, dump sites often catch fire ... Highly toxic dioxins and furans are released into air when plastic and other electronic parts are burnt. Interestingly, if this further unused equipment were taken to electronic waste (EW) collection points and then transferred to companies involved in their processing, we would have more resources like ferrous, non-ferrous and precious metal, plastic, glass and ceramics. Ajgul Manataeva, mother of two children and a successful woman, always tries to keep clear of junk. But what is she going to do with five old phones that may be perfectly normal but so outdated that even 13-year-old son Diaz and 9 year old daughter Jasmine consider them nothing more than a piece of plastic. Once in one of the larger stores in Astana a girl handed her a leaflet in which Ajgul read a newsletter about the negative impact of e-waste and recycling opportunities available to the public. Aigul, with acute environmental conscience, was ready to immediately hand over her phone ... But... where? A lot of people in Kazakhstan don’t know, either. But the problem is that every year Kazakhstan produces 343,000 tonnes of electronic waste (EW). Roman Mukhin, executive director of Electronic Waste Recycling LLP "Promtechnoresurs" is worried: - There aren’t publicly accessible e-waste collection points. But the population should know about it. We have no support from the government and manufacturers of electronic equipment like subsidies or tax breaks. Also, hazardous constituents are being ignored because the use of best available technologies is hard to find. The work of joint project of UNDP and the Kazakh Ministry of Energy with financial support from Samsung Electronic Central Eurasia entitled Management of Electronic Waste was designed to address these specific aspects of efficient e-waste management. The project has demonstrated a successful example of public-private partnerships. Unprecedented partnership between UNDP and private company Samsung had given impetus to the consideration of such an important national issue as electronic waste management. “Kazakhstan is not the first country which faced the same problem and started looking for solutions,” Roman says. “In global practice one of the most successful ways to support processors of EW is to introduce the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). The fact that even in 2013 the principle of EPR became part of the Concept of Kazakhstan’s transition to a green economy was met with great encouragement, and Kazakhstan is currently working on the development of relating legislative provisions to make this happen. Therefore, the main aspects of by-laws for EPR in electronic waste, based on international best practices, have become very timely and necessary. " Vyacheslav Tyukhtin, a specialist of e-waste recycling company, says: "Our companies need to strengthen the capacity for recycling electronic waste. We perform standard procedures in selection and disintegration but often we are faced with a situation where we do not know where to find the right technology. It was very interesting and useful to participate together with other companies in the UNDP-organised training on processing of electronic waste. This event was the first of its kind held in Kazakhstan. It was virtually the first time when public attention was drawn to this issue. We had a wonderful opportunity to listen to international experts from Switzerland and Austria, who have worked in this area for many years. We talked a lot about economic benefits of EPR, methods of robust management of chemicals in electronics, on effective strategies to collect electronic waste and its healthy disintegration. " On a hot summer day the head teacher of school №62 Zhanara Bahytzhanovna was on a bus when she heard an audio clip announcing the same information that had overwhelmed Aigul. She remembered that an all-staff meeting in May in a school where she worked was dedicated to EW issues and the woman went in to work with a firm intention to ask all teachers to do extra-curricular activities on this topic. The voice-over then urged to put small electric appliances in eco-boxes that had already been installed in all the Alser and Sulpak stores in Karaganda and Astana! Jasmine and Dias used their two telephones as tickets to board a boat on International Day for Protection of Children to cruise along the Ishim river. The journey was a real adventure and along the way the children learned a lot about the dangers of e-waste and the need to use eco-boxes. Aigul and her children decided to take the remaining two telephones to Alser store, where they were pleasantly surprised to see discounts on new phones. As it turned out, Alser had designed an incentive to inform and encourage people to use e-waste more prudently by launching a discount-based programme. 112 phones and 2 tablets had been collected in just one month! The Kazakh National University took over the green initiative in the final stages of the project by installing eco-boxes at the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology. Electronic Waste Recycling LLP Promtekhnoresurs will take out the contents of eco-boxes and disassemble its components. “Win-win” cooperation, when both parties are satisfied with the outcomes can inspire those who were initially impassionate about the prospects of the project. Other good news stemmed from the project that was nearing its completion when demonstration of separate EW collection practices was shown by Dream company for environmentally friendly disposal. In October they are launching a new campaign with the installation of eco-boxes across the entire network in Kazakhstan with the provision of discounts on new equipment. To sum it all up, two cities of Astana and Karaganda have organized EW collection systems; proposals to improve the legislative foundation in EW management have been made; initial steps have been made to improve the potential of EW processing enterprises and public outreach programmes have been arranged. Surely, getting electronic waste management work on the right track in just six months is impossible. Industrialised nations have spent decades trying to do that; what we can say with confidence is that the general public in Kazakhstan now knows more about electronic waste and it is now time to ensure consistent and system-based work of business, government and the society. Now, aware that our initiative has been picked up by the largest retail chains and smaller private companies we – UNDP - can be sure that the project will live on in a sustainable way.