A Greener Approach to E-waste Disposal

by BrentES on October 6, 2017 - 7:18pm

A Greener Approach to E-waste Disposal

How much electronic waste do you think you’ve created? Electronic waste, or E-waste, is any discarded electronic item, from chargers to laptops to cell phones. For Western society disposal of E-waste consists of bringing it to collection points where companies take it away. This is not the end of the process though. The article linked here describes one of the final stops for E-waste. In the West Bank villages of Palestine, E-waste is brought in from Israel, broken down, and illegally burned to extract precious metals which are then sold. There are over 700 sites where burning takes place and in some villages up to 80 percent of residents rely on E-waste for part of their income. John-Michael Davis is a PhD student trying to bring more environmentally friendly methods of waste disposal to the area. The most effective method has been grinding the plastics down releases far fewer toxins into the environment. There has already been an extremely positive local response to Davis’ efforts, due in part to him being Canadian and seen as a “fair and neutral broker”.

The reason E-waste processing is allowed to occur in this manner is that there is little to no enforcement by either Israeli or Palestinian governments. While there are regulations in place that make this practice illegal, for either state to be able to fully exercise their power they need to make good on those promises. The program outlined in the article allows people to continue making money and saves the state from having to step in and curtail people’s livelihoods. This approach seeks to eliminate conflict about the use of land and who receives the benefits and costs of the venture. Right now, the government believes that the land should not be used for waste processing and has used the law and regulation to try and alter the behaviour of its citizens. This approach has proven ineffective as the entire landmass cannot be policed effectively. Davis seeks to use public outreach to assist with the government’s goal of eliminating E-waste burning. Instead of using punitive action to eliminate conflict, he attempts to bridge the gap between the citizens and the government.

Being a third party in this situation is beneficial as it allows researchers to avoid the conflict that has built up over decades in the West Bank. Researchers are able to circumvent old rivalries between the governments and can bring a solution where all sides can benefit. This kind of public outreach is necessary to alter the norms of people’s behaviours. The third party also removes the burden of costs from either of the sides in this issue as a Swedish development firm has pledged several million dollars for the project. Traditionally top-down controls originating in government have been the go to solution to ensure that people are respecting the natural environment. In recent years, the governments of the world are moving away from this strategy and instead opting for one of inclusion where industry and citizen stakeholders are being consulted and included in the decision-making process. This marks a step forward in environmental policy as all sides of the issue are now being heard and considered. A great deal can be achieved when these elements are combined and a large scale, multi-faceted approach is chosen. This approach also serves to allow the government to resolve conflict and retain its power, two essential functions of a state.

O’Neil-Yates, C. (2017, October 1) For Palestinians, e-waste recycling is a toxic livelihood, but a Canadian is trying to change that. Retrieved on October 6, 2017 from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/palestine-west-bank-israel-newfoundland-electroni...

Comments

Hi BrentES,

You are totally right. The issue you are bringing up about E-waste disposal is certainly, in 2017, an issue we have to consider. Especially now that new iPhone and Android cellphone models are coming out every 6 months or so. I have to give it to you, even I was not aware of all those illegal burning sites in Palestine where they try to extract some expensive materials. And I mean now that I am aware of this issue, I am a lot more tempted to make sure I go to the right place to dispose of my electronics (a.k.a. my E-wastes). Now, I don't know if you're from the region of Montreal, but nearby, we have this organization called the Centre d’Information sur l'Environnement de Longueuil (CIEL), that has for mission to promote to students in schools of Longueuil and nearby regions, the importance of properly recycling wastes. What I also find interesting from this non-profit organization is that not only are there volunteering opportunities, but also that some of the tasks given to volunteers are to go in schools to speak with kids, and to participate in the activities such as being with them by their stands or at city assemblies. If ever you would want to know more about the organization or even on volunteering opportunities, I invite you to look up their website. All of their information is on it, even their phone number.

CIEL (2014). A Propos du CIEL. In: A Propos | CIEL. http://www.ciel-longueuil.org/Qui.html. Accessed 12 Oct 2017