Firstly, you should know what e-waste is. E-waste or electronic waste is electronic products that are unwanted, have stopped working or are close to the end of their “useful life”. These include everyday products such as televisions, computers, photocopiers, microwaves, cellphones, laptops and much more. This type of waste is sometimes referred to as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). It also includes batteries (except lead-acid/car batteries) and battery operated equipment.
E-waste should not be managed along with domestic waste due to harmful components contained within these devices. Your cell phone alone contains harmful toxins including lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, chlorine and bromine, which can leak into the groundwater since landfilling is our main method of waste disposal and bioaccumulate (becomes more concentrated in the bodies of the organism e.g. fish) in the food chain causing damage to the soil, water, plants and animals and most importantly US humans! Therefore e-waste is considered hazardous and must be handled separately.
As of Jan 2020, Trinidad and Tobago has 1.89 million mobile connections for a population of approximately 1.4 million people. That means that the average Trinbagonian has 2 cellphones! According to the journal article in ScienceDirect, five (5) Caribbean islands (Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Aruba, Barbados and Grenada) produced double the e-waste per capita per year, i.e., 13 kg/cap/year compared to global average of 6.1 kg/cap/year in 2016. This considerable estimated e-waste generation rate, if not properly managed, is not only harmful for the local environment, but also translates into considerable health impacts and loss of valuable resources (Mohammed and Jit Singh). So where does all of it go?
In Trinidad and Tobago, we have a few companies dedicated to e-waste management. Piranha International, Caribbean Tech Disposals and Recyclage E-Waste Management Limited are some companies that you can check out to take care of that broken laptop or that out of date DVD player (do people still use these?). You can look for the eWaste recycler closest to where you live.
We also have a new initiative led by the Lions Club of Trinidad and Tobago for the collection of cell phones at your nearest supermarket. For more details, you can click here.
Ensure that you get a certificate of destruction/management which indicates that your items were dealt with in an environmentally responsible manner. It’s ok to ask where it all ends up too! You must do your part to keep our environment clean and free from the harmful chemicals released by e-waste by disposing of these products correctly.
Do you already practice proper e-waste disposal or was this totally new to you? Tell us in the comments below.