Speakers at a discussion on Saturday stressed the need for forging public private partnerships and increasing investments in the circular economy through effective recycling management of electronic and digital products for the long-term financial and environmental benefits.
Comprising both the government and private stakeholders, the speakers also emphasised widespread awareness programmes so consumers understood their responsibilities.
They pointed out that e-waste, containing highly toxic chemical components, contaminates soil, groundwater, and air and poses risks to waste collectors and nearby communities.
At the event held at the Civic Centre in Dhaka, there were also calls for comprehensive policy development and practical legislative implementation to tackle the growing issue of electronic waste (e-waste) and its management.
VOICE, a research-based non-profit organisation, hosted this consultation meeting, focusing on the current trends of e-waste management in Bangladesh and its potential in circular economies.
Styled “E-waste Management Industry User Community and Circular Economies of Digital Technologies”, the discussion was moderated by VOICE’s Executive Director Ahmed Swapan Mahmud.
Saleem Samad, environment activist and journalist; Mihir Biswas, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA); Md. Mehedi Hasan Khan, assistant project director, SUFAL Project, Forest Department, Bangladesh; Paroma Arefin, senior scientific officer, BCSIR; Golam Sarwar, consultant, United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Taher Khan, disaster risk reduction expert, spoke on the occasion.
A keynote presentation was delivered based on VOICE’s findings on situation and trend analysis of e-waste management in Bangladesh under a project named ‘Strengthening Circular Approach for Environmental Sustainability’.
The keynote stated that in 2022, Bangladesh had produced around 3 million metric tonnes (MMT) of e-waste, including scraps from ship-breaking yards. The recycling sector handles only 3 per cent of this e-waste, with the rest ending up in landfills, extracted informally, or burnt illegally.
Despite specific laws and ordinances for e-waste management and recycling, their on-the-ground implementation is limited. Although there is an emerging formal e-waste management industry in Bangladesh, the majority of e-waste still ends up in informal disposal channels, lacking accountability towards the environment and surrounding communities, according to the keynote.
VOICE’s Executive Director Ahmed Swapan Mahmud said that the current recycling facilities are inadequate, and their irresponsible disposal of electronic products poses new environmental challenges for communities. Besides, he called on the tech industry to promote and practise circular economy principles in the design, manufacture, and creation of products to extend their usability and reduce the surge in e-waste.