Think Before Tossing Your E-Waste

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Abscent / Shutterstock.com

EVERY year, Singapore generates 60 million kilograms of e-waste. That’s like every single person in Singapore throwing away eight MacBook Airs a year.

As rapidly advancing technology increases the pace of product replacement, our e-waste production is expected to rise in the coming years.

While already a major issue globally, surprisingly little is said about e-waste in Singapore. The powers that be are aiming for a sustainable Singapore — one they intend to call a “Zero Waste Nation”. If we hope to achieve this in coming years, we need to rethink how to deal with the growing mountain of e-waste.

So we pose the question:

Is there too much e-waste in Singapore?

How do we deal with it? What changes need to be effected in the near future? What gaps in our current system require attention? 

Wu Ge, General Manager, TES-AMM Singapore who provide IT lifecycle services

First of all, people don’t know what to do with their old electronics!

That is the biggest challenge we face. I believe people are willing to recycle, but they are still unaware of all the avenues open to them when it comes to e-waste. (Read our accompanying article 3 Ways To Waste Not Your Want Nots)

Right now, Singapore lacks the necessary legislature to promote the recycling habit.

For many years, my wife had kept my children’s Nintendo game consoles from the last century! We even had several drawers in our house full of old unwanted electronics — old phones, iPods, and computers. We knew it would be wasteful and harmful to the environment to just throw them in the trash, but we didn’t know what else to do with them. Until I started working in the recycling industry, we didn’t know how to dispose of them properly. And we are not alone. I am sure many people find themselves in similar shoes.

To improve e-waste recycling in Singapore, we have to focus on building a better e-waste management infrastructure. The private sector, government agencies and non-governmental organisations need to collaborate to make this possible. The media will play a part in publicising the virtues of the 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) culture too.

It takes a multi-pronged approach to positively affect recycling rates locally.

It is encouraging that Singapore’s success with NEWater has already set a precedent for social change. Who would have imagined that NEWater today would fulfil 30% of our water needs? By 2060, the number is expected to rise to 55%. I think we can set similar goals for e-waste recycling.

What we are lacking now is focus and strategy. We need programmes and goals to move forward. Once we can set a national goal for e-waste recycling, the like-minded will step forward to provide support. If we can sell the idea well to the public and follow through with sufficient resource support, we will get there eventually.

Jeannie Ong, Chief Strategic Partnership Officer, StarHub

The mobile penetration rate in Singapore stands at 149%, making us  one of the most connected nations in the world. With our love of technology, it is inevitable that e-waste is set to grow in coming years.

A key challenge is the lack of public awareness on e-waste, its methods of disposal and accessibility to proper e-waste management. While there has been much publicity and education on general waste — plastics, paper, glass — e-waste receives far less attention. The good news is the level of awareness is on the rise as seen by the exponential growth in StarHub RENEW’s recycling tonnage. However, much more can be done.

Raising awareness is an effort that includes all of us — corporations, the media, the grassroots, and policy makers.

Recycling should not be enforced, but rather encouraged. With the target for national recycling rate set at 70% by 2030, we need to step up efforts on public education.

Perhaps, incentives can be given to encourage more industrial and corporate recycling of e-waste, too. Additionally, companies, schools and organisations can participate in StarHub’s RENEW (Recycling the Nation’s Electronic Waste) programme to kick-off e-waste recycling.

Our main aim has been to improve the accessibility of e-waste recycling bins. We work with the National Environment Agency and Singapore Environment Council to raise awareness of e-waste and partner leading retail mall operators and community development councils to place the bins in public spaces so as to make it more convenient for people to recycle.

Mindy Tan, CEO, Newstead Technologies Pte. Ltd.

Statistics show that Singaporeans love their gadgets! The penetration rate of smart devices in Singapore is one of the highest in the world. Many Singaporeans have an average of at least three gadgets – the smartphone, tablet and computer.

With the speed of new tech product launches and take up rate of these products in technophile Singapore, it is no surprise that the amount of e-waste will continue to grow.

It tends to be easier to toss unwanted items down the chute than to recycle the; the same goes for e-waste. It helps to educate people about the consequences of improper disposal, and at the same time make it more convenient for them to e-recycle.  

E-waste recycling is still a pretty new concept in Singapore. It is a good time to start to inculcate the recycling habit and make it a sustainable effort. Corporations can take the lead in e-waste management from internal communications on the importance of e-waste recycling to implementation of proper disposal of end-of-life IT products.

With our Gift Your Tech campaign, we hope to help raise environmental awareness and promote e-waste recycling and participation.

We have arranged for 12 stores that are located in different parts of Singapore to act as e-waste collection points during the campaign. With our campaign, we hope to do our part for the environment and take this opportunity to help the less fortunate during this festive season of sharing.

The Gift Your Tech Campaign runs from 5 Dec 2016 to 27 Jan 2017. More information can be found here. 

Mohamed Sharul Annuar, Marketing Manager, Virogreen

The general trend in local industries has been to revamp IT systems every three years, many even do it much sooner than that! This accounts for a large percentage of the e-waste we generate every year.

However, only about 70% of local companies currently recycle their e-waste. We must first work to improve that — corporations have to better handle the way they manage the disposal of their old equipment.

Education is key at this time; more organisations have to be made aware of the importance of responsible management of e-waste. While many big corporations and MNCs already have measures and processes in place, local SMEs also need to be brought into the fold.

The government will also play a crucial role in the coming years. As it stands, there aren’t enough benefits for corporations to recycle their e-waste. Improving that, possibly through new policies, will promote better management of equipment and give an immediate incentive for companies to make necessary changes.

Given the current global climate, e-waste is a major issue in other developed countries. Although, it does seem that there is no urgent need, more can be done in Singapore at this stage.

Related article:

3 Ways To Waste Not Your Want Nots

You can read other Friday Focus features HERE.

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