Published Tuesday, 30 March 2010
By Vineetha Menon
Electronic waste that is imported into the United Arab Emirates with proper documentation becomes untraceable once it leaves the country, according to the Middle East's only government-endorsed e-scrap recycling and management firm EnviroServe.
EnviroServe warns that hundreds of tons of electronic waste across the Middle East end up in landfills every year, but that estimation is generous compared to the recent United Nations Environment Programme report that revealed Morocco alone throws away 13,500 metric tons of PC and 15,100 metric tons of TV e-waste annually.
Here in the United Arab Emirates there are several recycling campaigns to deal with old cellphones and computers, but Zornitza Hadjitodorova, division manager at EnviroServe, believes that more needs to be done in terms of specific e-waste laws and greater accountability.
"E-waste keeps entering the country, whereby proper (import) codes are introduced - however, when e-waste leaves the country, there are no more codes so it becomes increasingly hard to trace where e-waste eventually lands. There are huge quantities leaving on ships from Sharjah and we do not have any data on those shipments," she says, adding that there are several scrap dealers in the country are free to do what they wish with the e-waste they collect, including just dumping it in landfills instead of seeing if any of the material can be reused or recycled.
"In the region, e-waste is a new topic. Hence, there is no legislation, regulations or general municipal rules on specifically e-waste. Legislation makes it compulsory for OEMs to collect end-of-life equipment, which is not the case here. There are hundreds of tons of e-waste ending up in landfills, which is a waste of space and money, not to mention the severe environmental damage," Hadjitodorova adds.
Precise e-waste figures however are impossible to obtain due to "the lack of reporting" but Hadjitodorova estimates that substantial quantities are in Saudi Arabia, based on its population size, and the United Arab Emirates since it is a key trading port in the GCC.
EnviroServe offers environmental solutions in partnership with the United Arab Emirates Federal Environment Agency (FEA) and works with DHL to get e-scrap from interested regional companies, which are then sorted and categorised into ‘green' and ‘amber' waste. Green waste such as metals, plastic, glass and paper can be easily recycled and reused, while amber waste including fluorescent tubes, CRT and LCD monitors, batteries, cables and cartridges are sent to their overseas partners.
The firm claims that nothing sent to them gets thrown away, with their operations overseen by both the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) office in Bahrain and the Ministry of Environment and Water in the UAE.
"This region faces many environmental challenges that need to be addressed and understood...but every week we sign agreements with major institutions across the UAE and that gives us the confidence that the region does want to be more environmentally responsible," concludes Hadjitodorova.