Generally, exposure to the hazardous components
of e-waste is most likely to arise through inhalation,
ingestion, and skin contact. In addition to direct
occupational (formal or informal) exposure, people can
come into contact with e-waste materials, and associated
pollutants, through contact with contaminated soil,
dust, air, water, and through food sources, including
meat. Children, fetuses, pregnant women, elderly people,
people with disabilities, workers in the informal e-waste
recycling sector, and other vulnerable populations face
additional exposure risks.
Children are a particularly sensitive group because
of additional routes of exposure (e.g. breastfeeding
and placental exposures), high-risk behaviours (e.g.
hand-to-mouth activities in early years and high risk-
taking behaviours in adolescence), and their changing
physiology (e.g. high intakes of air, water, and food, and
low rates of toxin elimination). The children of e-waste
recycling workers also face take-home contamination
from their parents’ clothes and skin and direct high-
level exposure if recycling is taking place in their homes.
Specific chemical elements and compounds are associated
with e-waste, either as components of the equipment or
released during the recycling process.
The most common potentially hazardous chemical
elements that are also components of electrical and
electronic equipment are lead, cadmium, chromium,
mercury, copper, manganese, nickel, arsenic, zinc, iron,
(Source: Grant K et al. Health consequences of exposure to e-waste:
a systematic review on health effects of e.waste. The Lancet.)
BENEFITS FROM PROPER
According to the Department of Environment (DoE)
Malaysia, we are not isolated from this problem. E-waste
generation has been increasing and is estimated to
increase even more in the future. E-waste generated from
industrial sources such as some semi-finished products,
end material or punching scrap are already regulated by
Environmental Quality Regulations 2005. On the other
hand, e-waste generated from non-industrial sectors
(especially household) such as TVs, air conditioners,
washing machines, refrigerators and among others are
not yet regulated properly under the current regulations.
As a consequence, most of the e-waste end up being
improperly recycled and disposed through informal
If there are no concerns with intellectual property
rights, e-waste management can be carried out with the
following options in mind:
(a) Reuse. Donate it away should it still be functioning.
(b) Repair or refurbished so that it can still function.
(c) Recover and Reuse of functional components.
(d) Recovery of constituent elements when the
components cannot be reused.
(e) Final disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous
waste at permitted sites approved by Government.
By implementing the above, natural resources are
conserved and the life of e-waste can be extended.
For equipment that are reaching end of life, recycling
recovers valuable materials which can be used in the raw
materials supply chain. These materials can be used back
to manufacture the same product thus promoting an
eco green product or other new products. Thus, energy
consumption, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions are
reduced; global warming is minimised and resources are
saved because fewer materials are mined.
Recycling in an environmentally sound management
facility protects the environment and minimises land
filling. Managing an environmentally sound management
facility requires professional recyclers who use green
technology to produce green product. Also, recycling
creates more job opportunities.
MCMC & INDUSTRY INITIATIVES
MCMC is concerned about the growing number of unused
mobile phones due to rapid technology advances in the
communication and multimedia industry since mobile
broadband was introduced in 2009. MCMC is aware that
these devices contain materials that can be harmful to
the environment and human health if not disposed off
properly. Research by the US Environmental Protection
Agency shows that the average life span of a mobile
phone is around 18-24 months. Furthermore, based on
statistics from SIRIM QAS, there are 65.7 million units
of mobile phones registered before 2014. Thus, it is
estimated that there are more than 65.7 million mobile
phones which can be considered as e-waste; either kept
at home or ended up in landfills.
Other contributing factors to the low lifespan of
mobile phones are planned obsolescence and technology
progression. Planned obsolescence takes place when
manufacturers have a policy of planning or designing a
product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will
become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer
functional after a certain period of time thus shortening
the replacement cycle. Technological progression in the
information age has had and will continue to improve
life for many years to come. The deployment of Machine
to Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IoT) are
examples of technology progression that will contribute
to the continuous e-waste production.
MOBILE E-WASTE: ‘OLD PHONE,
NEW LIFE’ PROGRAMME
The idea to promote environmentally safe disposal
of mobile e-waste was first mooted back in 2013 as
a response to Resolution 79 adopted at the World
November 2012 (WTSA-12) which invited Member States
to take all necessary measures to handle and control