e-waste ; A growing waste hazard

With the technology boom, there is a growing trend of people discarding electronics like phones, laptops and TVs for newer models, leading to growing e-waste in the country.

The National Environment Commission’s (NEC) report on Bhutan’s state of environment, 2016 has pointed out that the country is seeing an increase in the amount of solid waste generated because of rapid socio-economic development, increasing population and urbanization. More problematically, the composition of waste is shifting from biodegradable to non-biodegradable waste.

Information and Communication Technology Officer of the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT) Damchen Zangmo said electronic wastes from public offices are currently surrendered to the Department of National Properties.

To properly manage e-waste, the DITT under the Ministry of Information and Communications was supposed to outsource handling of e-waste to a private entity starting 2018. However, the ICT officer said the department is not able to recruit a private firm as of now due to lack of expertise and knowledge in the field and lack of financial resources.

The DITT official said the private entity will have to handle e-waste in an environment-friendly manner. Once the private entity takes over the responsibility of handling e-waste, people will no longer have to worry about how to dispose them off.

She said to address the issue of e-waste and its management, creating an efficient and sustainable system and hiring experienced personnel in the field of waste management is required. “The department lacks technical knowledge and practical experiences since the technical competency of our staffs are not relevant and complementing,” she added.

Meanwhile, the department has worked on a strategy to manage e-waste at the national level, but without proper collection, storage and disposal system, determining environment-friendly management of e-waste solution remains a challenge.

The department is mandated to draft regulations and strategy to manage e-waste, and institute mechanism on managing e-waste as a core agency of e-waste. With the recruitment of e-waste management entity, the respective Thromdes and Dzongkhags will monitor and inspect e-waste across the country.

Talking to Business Bhutan, local repair shops said they are unaware of the dumping places and they directly sell non-recyclable and reusable electronics to scrap dealers.

AC Electronics located at the heart of the city said they receive around 10 to 15 electronic gadgets. Heaps of electronic appliances are brought for repair, which include refrigerators, washing machines, heaters, ACs, ovens and kitchenware.

However, the shopkeeper said the appliances that not useable are sold to local scrap dealers. “We sell those scraps for Nu 10 to Nu 20 per kg.”

According to E-waste management: A Case Study at the College of Science and Technology, Bhutan, e-waste in Bhutan has become a major problem owing to no appropriate disposal in place. The  increasing mobile  phone usage and  the trend of changing mobile phones  within  a few  years  contribute in  generating  e-waste.

According to the Bhutan Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2012, DITT is fully responsible for e-waste management.

Phub Dem from Thimphu