The e-waste is a growing concern all across the globe, Bhutan included. But having the e-waste recovery and recycling facilities in Bhutan is not found as viable, according to the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT).
The Head of Infrastructure Division, DITT, Sonam Phuntsho, said setting up e-waste recovery and recycling facilities would incur exorbitant capital investment, and at present, the less volume of e-waste generated suitably matches the investment.
The environment and occupational health and safety risk from e-waste was also considered concern, he adds as per the findings from the department and relevant stakeholders’ visit to India.
Sharing the concerns on e-waste management, Sonam Phuntsho adds that shortage of manpower for e-waste regulation enforcement, the lack of expertise and knowledge in the department on e-waste management, and the lack of adequate budget to implement the e-waste regulation are hindering the efficiency in handling the situation.
The e-waste is defined, as per the Waste Prevention and Management Act of Bhutan, 2009 as “discarded, obsolete, or recyclable electrical or electronic equipment including all components, subassemblies, and consumables at the time of discarding”.
The e-waste management in Bhutan is carried out in align to the Waste Prevention and Management Act, 2009 and Waste Prevention and Management Regulation (WPMR), 2012.
This year, DITT in consultation with the NITT (National Institute of Technology Trichy) /TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), India estimates e-waste in Bhutan to range from 1,105 to 1,810 metric tonnes.
Currently in Bhutan, after the lifespan of the appliances are over, it is either repaired or reused, but beyond repair it is sold to the scrap dealers. Sonam Phuntsho said the Department of National Properties auctions the e-wastes collected from the government offices to the local scrap dealers.
While on the segregation part, he adds that the e-waste from the municipal waste is the responsibility of Thromdes as per the WPMR 2012.
In the front of e-waste generated from the households, he said the department has developed implementation strategy and standard operating procedures to handle e-waste.
He said that the department is currently drafting RFP (request for proposal) to handle and manage e-waste in future. The proposal will cover the recruitment of e-waste management entities to collect, sort and dispose e-waste through PPP (Public Private Partnership) model and enforce WPMR 2012 along with the relevant stakeholders.
He also added that the government is in the process of implementing a take-back mechanism to reduce e-waste through EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) and EEE (Electrical and Electronic Products and Equipment) products, which has been discussed with ICT vendors and electric car dealers.
To sensitize the people on e-waste problems in Bhutan, Sonam Phuntsho said the government has been training the relevant e-waste management stakeholders, like National Environment Commission, Department of Information Technology and Telecom, Department of Revenue and Customs, Thromdes, Ministry of Work and Human Settlement, Royal Bhutan Police, Department of National Properties, Bhutan ICT and Training Association and ICT vendors, in collection, sorting, disposal and monitoring of e-waste.
The government is also creating awareness programs to the public on social, economic, environmental, health and legal impacts of e-waste at national and dzongkhag and gewog levels. An animation clip on e-waste is telecast on the Bhutan Broadcasting Service, followed by awareness program in five dzongkhags, and rest will be covered in the following years.
Most of the components found in the e-waste are ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, glass, wood and plywood, printed circuit boards, concrete and ceramics and rubber.
The hazardous e-waste can have health and environmental impacts due to its non-biodegradable characteristics. It impacts the human health, like digestive, neurological, respiratory and bone tissues, and also lead poisoning.
The toxic chemicals produced from the e-waste while released from open air burning can also reach the atmosphere. In soil, the toxins can spread through seepage and spread to the water, thereby, entering into the soil crop food pathway leading to exposure of metals, like lead, to humans.
Concerning on the impacts e-waste have, Sonam Phuntsho said that the people in Bhutan can minimize the production of e-waste by buying genuine and green gadgets or products, by repairing the products and buying from a vendor having take-back policies.