Printers main toxic e-waste component

Posted on 25 Sep 2009

* Berita ini terdapat dalam Bahasa Inggeris sahaja.

SIBU: Printers are expected to become the largest component of toxic electronic waste or ‘e-waste’, and if indiscriminately dumped in landfills can be hazardous to the environment and health.

Computer Sales and Services Association (CSSA) Sarawak, Sibu branch vice-chairman Wong Ing Ang revealed that ink cartridges contained toxins that can leak out to contaminate underground water at dumpsites not built to cope with it. The situation is aggravated by the increasing affordability of printers, he added.

Wong warned that when sources of drinking water become polluted, it will bring about irreversible health effects to humans, plants, animals and microorganisms.

“The indiscriminate dumping of obsolete IT components including damaged printers will pose a serious problem in years to come with no proper disposal facility,” cautioned Wong, who is also organising chairman for the association’s e-waste recycling campaign.

In this connection, they had proposed to Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) to establish a collection point for unwanted IT-related components. But failure to identify a suitable location had left the proposal on the drawing board, he added.

Wong said the location has to be ideal so that it does not pose a health risk to the people.

Elaborating, he explained that the environment has to be enclosed so that any leakage of heavy metals such as lead and mercury do not spill out into the open, posing a health hazard.

“Mercury and lead, for example, are very toxic e-waste components which can cause health complications. Which is why the location has to be proper in the interest of public safety and health,” he reiterated.

Wong also pointed out that as printers become increasingly affordable, people would discard rather than have them repaired and reused.

To a question, he said a new unit of printer cost about RM100 whereas it would cost more to repair it.

Ink cartridges are also expensive, he said.

With offices and almost every household having a printer, he felt that the volume of disposed printers is likely to escalate.

Wong revealed that they would be jointly organising their fifth e-waste recycling campaign with SMC from Dec 11 to 13. He said during that period, people can bring over their obsolete PCs or IT components in exchange for a voucher.

Last year, they collected about 600 monitors.

Other IT components collected were printers, CPUs, scanners and so forth with a total weight of six tonnes. A source from SMC confirmed that the town has yet to have a collection centre. He reckoned that people dumped obsolete computers and other IT-related products near their house compound or by the roadside.

He did not discount the fact that these wastes would eventually end up in landfills. This would be problematic as e-waste can pollute underground water sources, contaminating drinking water and polluting the environment.

Among other things, computers are bulky and take up a lot of space thus shortening the lifespan of landfills.

SMC deputy chairman Daniel Ngieng said a proper disposal for e-waste was required as more PCs and electronics get replaced yearly.

Ngieng told The Borneo Post recently that he had come across several obsolete computers in the Seng Ling dumpsite.

“This clearly indicates a pressing need for a proper way of managing the disposal of e-waste,” he said when asked his view of setting up a collection centre to dispose of e-waste.

He said a collection centre would help collect and store the used electrical and electronic parts and he is looking forward to a joint effort with government agencies to realise the proposal.

Head of Department of Environment (DOE) Sibu branch Julaidi Rasidi said at the rate PCs and electronics got replaced yearly; e-waste dumping may soon turn into a serious problem here.  He was concerned that e-waste could be dumped into the Kemuyang landfill with no facility here to provide for their safe disposal. This could be hazardous to health and the environment in the long run.

“A single computer contains lead, mercury, gold and nickel among others. If improperly disposed of, toxic substances such as lead, mercury and other harmful materials can leak into the landfill,” he cautioned.

“If not properly dealt with, there will be long-term toxic effects on health and the environment.”