BEIRUT: It takes time to accumulate in your body and can be found in almost every room in your house. It can contaminate the water you drink, the air you breathe, and the soil, which can greatly affect your health in a negative way. This silent killer is called “E-waste.”
Beeatoona.org, an organization that aims to promote good environmental practices in Lebanon and other Arab communities, defines E-waste as computers, audio and video devices, and other electronic appliances that people no longer use. E-waste contains high levels of toxic materials such as lead, barium, cadmium, and mercury, which can poison water, air, and the food you eat.
“It is basically everything with an electronic board and or a battery,” said Nadine Haddad, Director at Beeatoona.org, adding that it becomes E-waste when you completely stop using the electronic product, even if it is still functional.
In a bid to raise awareness, Beeatoona.org organized the country’s first E-waste awareness and collection day at the American University Beirut (AUB), in collaboration with AUB’s Center for Civic Engagement and Community Services and the university’s environmental club.
Haddad stressed the urgency for people to recycle their E-waste, stating that 65 percent of people store their E-waste at home. “There are more than 1,000 toxic substances in the electronic boards. It’s good to recycle plastic bottles, it’s very important. It’s essential to recycle paper, because we do not want to cut more trees, but E-waste is toxic. It is hazardous waste, just like medical and industrial waste,” Haddad told The Daily Star.
This past year, Beeatoona has provided collection points for people to drop off their E-waste. Once the E-waste is collected and segregated, Beeatoona plans to send the E-waste to a recycling plant in Europe because Lebanon has no such facility yet, where the E-waste will be dismantled, separated, sorted, and sent for recycling into different sectors of industry.
Currently, people in Lebanon dispose of their waste through a combination of dumping and burning waste in rural areas, and the country lacks legislation or incentives for proper E-waste disposal.
Environment Minister Mohammad Rahhal, who attended the event, told The Daily Star that his current goal was to see the E-waste issue addressed by a comprehensive waste management plan in the next three to four years.
Rahhal indicated that the government’s current focus is on conventional waste management, echoing the view of activists who acknowledge that E-waste awareness has yet to take hold.
“It’s a good start,” said Maria Saidy, an AUB Masters student in environmental technology and president of the university’s environment club.
“E-waste is a new topic for Lebanese society and many ask if we have E-waste recycling sites in Lebanon, and we tell them ‘no, but we are collecting and segregating them, and sending them outside of Lebanon for recycling.’ We are getting positive feedback.”
The event at AUB was geared toward creating awareness of E-waste, which features a weeklong E-waste collection competition. Students are collecting their E-waste and using the Civic Engagement Center as a collection site.
“We are trying to make it a lifestyle,” Saidy said. “You collect your waste and you know where to go to get rid of it, instead of just throwing it with the organic and solid waste. So, it’s better to start segregating from your home. We thought the competition would be a good incentive to start with students at the university level.”
For a list of official E-waste recycling collection points near you, go to www.ecycle-me.org