Electronic waste posing an eco-risk

DUBAI - The use-and-throw consumer culture coupled with the lack of a recycling facility for computer parts, and other electronic items, by adding to the landfill, is becoming an environmental concern in the UAE.

By Prerna Suri And Zaigham Ali Mirza

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Published: Sat 22 May 2004, 9:22 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:26 PM

The attitude responsible for the growing electronic waste here is that old components are not preferred, while new parts are generally as cheap as used ones, according to the experts.

According to experts in the field of waste treatment and management, computers are increasingly becoming obsolete as a result of rapid upgrade of components and parts, something that is now recognised as the hallmark of the PC and information technology industry. And in the UAE, their numbers are increasing as rapidly as anywhere else in the developed world.

A majority of the computer shops whose employees/owners Khaleej Times spoke to, said that they never burnt their parts and, instead, sent the old computers to the garbage.

Said Kamal Kumar, Manager to Imports, Quality Computers: "When we receive used computers which are completely obsolete and useless, we generally dump them in the garbage. We try to avoid getting such computers in the first place, but per chance if we do get them, then we have no other option but to throw them. CDs are a separate issue as they may contain certain confidential information or they may be pirated, so people generally tend to crush them or sometimes even burn them."

Ramesh Surajnandani, a computer dealer: "Second-hand computers are generally sold to dealers who then reassemble their individual parts and then resell them. In cases, where the parts are too old to be used, we throw them in the garbage, as the municipality will then do its job. I haven't really seen cases of people burning their hardware in Dubai although it may be prevalent in other parts of the world."

Shibu Varghese, manager: "I have heard of stories where people actually burn some small computer parts but we as a rule dump all our waste in the garbage. So far, most of our CDs have also been crushed after which they were thrown in the garbage."

Said Charbel, Emirates Computer: "We usually manage to sell all our old stock and we usually don't get a chance to throw any of our computers. If per any chance, we do have some old stock we'll probably sell it to some other country."

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Naji Al Radhi, Head of Waste Treatment Section at Dubai Municipality's Environment Department, noted that there is no recycling unit for computer components or electronic items and as such obsolete PCs are treated like any other garbage. "If the machines that are being discarded are in a usable condition, we instruct the owner company to find customers for them. But if the PCs are beyond use, then they are sent to the general waste landfills," he said. Mr Al Radhi noted that it would be desirable to have an industry that takes up the recycling of electronic waste, but added that it would require people who are trained in this line and technical qualified to do the job.

"Also, depending on the quantity of these machines being dumped as garbage at a point of time, used computers can be exported to certain countries that make use of them," he added.

Did you know...

DUBAI - A recent study shows that the relentless appetite for buying new computers is having a major effect on the environment. Instead of dumping old computers after a few years, says the study, we should be using them for longer, or selling them second-hand to reduce the demand for new ones.

Scientist at the UN university in Tokyo estimate the manufacture of one computer consumes 240 kilogrammes of fossil fuels, 22 kilograms of chemicals and 1,500 kilogrammes of water.

The constant drive for new PCs is taking mega bites out of the environment and yet sales just keep on soaring. The number of personal computers in the world is equal to the population of India - one billion.

Just how many computers have been discarded and dumped in landfills is hard to guesstimate, but as their numbers grow - which it will - the time will come for a serious rethink.

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