Sri Lanka begins fight with toxic e-waste

 Global Times : Thursday, 7 April 2011 by Amanda Sri

COLOMBO, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Without a proper mechanism to dispose the country's obsolete electronics, Sri Lankan environmental authorities are to "hunt" old computers, washing machines, televisions and other electronics, which are gathering dust in many back yards, in order to save the country from a disaster.
With ever-growing demand for latest electronic devices -- fancy mobile phones, handy laptops and flat TV screens -- the country faces difficulty in disposing old electronics often laden with toxic chemicals.
The Central Environmental Authority (CEA), which manages all sorts of waste in the country, is to hold the first ever e-waste camp to collect old electronics on April 7 in the capital Colombo with the help of branded electronic importers.
The CEA has included e-waste management into its national waste disposal strategy but finds no fund to dispose the high tech trash safely.
The so-called waste are still treasures to many Sri Lankans as they have sentimental values -- they are their first TV, mobile phone and etc.
With no waste management for e-waste and people's poor knowledge of e-waste disposal, some useless electronics like mobile phones and computers remain as toys for children.
The CEA has launched a project along with 14 private sector partners including Sri Lanka Telecom, Mobitel, Dialog, Etisalat, Hutch and Lanka Bell from the telecommunications industry, Singer and Abans from the home appliances industry, Metropolitan, E-Wis, Virtusa and ABC Trade and Investments from the office appliances industry as well as service providers Geo Cycle and Green Link to collect old electronic equipment in the country.
"We hope people will hand over broken electronic equipment to these companies at the camp," said CEA Chairman Charitha Herath.
The CEA had also set up a phone line for the public to get connected with the companies collecting e-waste. All e-waste collected through companies will be handed over to the Green Link, which dismantles them following international safety guidelines.
The Green Link is the only company which has the local and international approval to export e-waste from Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka still lacks a proper account of nationwide e-waste stocks but the Green Link estimates that there would be over 40, 000 tons of electronic waste in the country.
The awareness campaign by the CEA to hand over e-waste has encouraged people to bring e-waste to collectors without burning them in open air or throwing them away.
The Green Link, which targets to collect over 1,000 tons of e- waste per year, has shipped over 2,000 tons of electronic waste to other countries for disposal for the past two to three years.
Dr. Ananda Jayalal from the Health Ministry said the used batteries of mobile phones pose a great threat to Sri Lanka as nearly 10 million people in the country use them.
"When people are exposed to toxic chemicals -- lead, mercury, nickel, cadmium, lithium and electrolytes from e-waste, they could damage brain and nervous system, affect kidney and liver, and cause birth defects," he said.