DID YOU know that today is International E-Waste Day?

What is e-waste? It refers to various forms of electric and electronic equipment that have ceased to be of value to their users or no longer satisfy their original purpose. They have exhausted their utility value through either redundancy, replacement or breakage.

Given that the information and technology revolution has exponentially increased the use of new electronic equipment, it has also produced growing volumes of obsolete products; e-waste is one of the fastest-growing waste streams. And yes, e-waste contains complex combinations of highly toxic substances that pose a danger to health and the environment.

How does a developing country such as ours manage e-waste – our own e-waste and those dumped to us by other countries deceptively packaged as surplus, second-hand or recyclable electronic goods? Neighboring Thailand offers an example – it banned the importation of electronic waste, or e-waste.

The Thai policy banning the entry of e-waste was imposed to protect public health and the environment from toxic pollution resulting from the dirty recycling of these hazardous waste imports.  We can follow Thailand and enact a sweeping ban on the importation of e-waste, plastic waste and other wastes.

With our neighbors closing doors to all kinds of waste imports, our country is in danger of becoming the most preferred destination in the region for waste. Our government must plug all holes that allow our country to be a dumping ground by ratifying the Basel Convention Ban Amendment and enacting a total ban on waste imports.

A sweeping prohibition on waste imports will serve as a strong deterrent against schemes to transfer hazardous waste and other wastes from other countries to the Philippines where such wastes can be cheaply processed, recycled or disposed of at the expense of people’s health and the environment.

Remember the botched smuggling of e-waste – falsely declared as “assorted electronic accessories” – from Hong Kong that was discovered at a port in Northern Mindanao in May 2019? As reported by customs officials, the shipment was intended as a “test cargo” and that 70 more containers would have followed had it not been intercepted!

The Basel Convention Ban Amendment is an international law prohibiting the export of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries. Ratifying it and banning waste importation on the whole will allow the Philippines to focus on its own waste management issues, fully enforce waste and pollution prevention laws, and improve clean recycling facilities with government support and possibly incentives. Adopting these twin measures will encourage the enactment of other essential policies and regulations to prevent and reduce waste generation, including the ban on single-use plastics, the promotion of reuse and refill systems, the adoption of extended producer responsibility and other strategies toward clean production, zero waste and a toxics-free society.