Environmental group proposes e-waste treatment to Knesset

By ANNA RUDNITSKAYA
January 3, 2011 13:15

Israelis set to embrace an eco-friendly way of disposing of electronic devices, says Israel Union for Environmental Defense.

3 minute read.



ewaste

ewaste. (photo credit: Associated Press )

Every year, Israelis produce dozens of tons of electronic waste – cell phones, computer monitors, fax and copy machines that contain lead, cadmium, mercury and other dangerous toxins. When buried in the landfills, these toxins leak into the soil, threatening human health. Now, a new proposal introduced to the Knesset is trying to turn things around – with your help.

The proposal, drafted by Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) is based on the European Union’s Directive for treatment of e-waste and calls for the creation of collection schemes where consumers can return their used e-waste easily and free of charge. 

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“It is important to increase recycling and re-use of electronic products, because e-waste has a lot of valuable resources like metals, and on the other hand it may pollute the ecosphere when buried in the ordinary landfills," Gilad Ostrovsky, head of the waste and recycling division of the IEUD, told The Jerusalem Post.

If the law is passed, the collection infrastructure, including drop-off centres, periodic kerbside collection, and collection points in businesses, will expand. The law also encourages recycling by setting mandatory targets, Ostrovsky said.

A number of plants and companies which deal with the collection of electronic waste already exist in Israel. Most of the collection terminals are now based in factories, businesses and institutions. Several municipalities have also set up electronic waste collection points for the general public in the recent years. (To find the nearest point, click here: http://www.adamteva.org.il/_Uploads/dbsAttachedFiles/EWasteHebrew.pdf).

E-waste is a rapidly expanding problem all over the world. For example, in the US alone, some 30 million computers are discarded each year. In Israel alone, over 20,000 tons of e-waste are sent each year to Israel's regular solid waste landfills, according to the IUED estimates.

While the number of electronic devices per person constantly grows, only 15-20 percent of e-waste is recycled, even in the developed countries. The remaining part goes to landfills accounting for about 75% of heavy metals found there. In turn, acidic conditions in the landfills cause the toxins to leak out and risk contaminating  groundwater supply.

The damage to human health may be huge. Heavy metals found in e-waste such as lead, cadmium and mercury have been found to damage the central and peripheral nervous systems, blood system and kidneys in humans.

Mercury, for example, is used in the production of energy efficient light-bulb. After it is crushed in landfills, the substance leaks to the soil and accumulates in living organisms through the food chain. Eventually, mercury is even consumed by humans, through the fish we eat.

Recycling raw materials from electronics is the most effective solution to the e-waste problem. It also has economic value since most electronic devices contain a variety of materials, including metals that can be recovered for future uses.

But a great problem with e-waste is that while many consumers are aware that batteries, for example, require special disposal, most do not understand that their computer monitors and cell phones are just as dangerous.

According to Ostrovsky, there are enough recycling capacities in Israel, with at least two large facilities and few other small ones. The only question is when will the public be made aware of them.

“Discussions on our proposal in the Knesset should start hopefully mid 2011. The environmental defense minister is pro, so chances are not bad, but it will take time,” he concludes.


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