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‘E-waste’ increasing, report says

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Customers browse smartphones in Phnom Penh in 2014. Eli Meixler

‘E-waste’ increasing, report says

Electronic waste in Cambodia has increased by 70 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to a recent United Nations University report, with authors attributing the rise to a thriving middle class and lack of regulation.

The improper disposal of electronics such as phones, computers and batteries can impact human health, and “they may also be hazardous to the entire ecosystem, leaching toxins into soil, water and air”, the report, released on Sunday, warns.

The Kingdom had the third-highest e-waste volume growth between 2010 and 2015, behind only China (107 percent) and Vietnam (90 percent); however, it recorded the lowest waste per capita when compared to its electronics-manufacturing neighbours.

The 17,000 tonnes of e-waste piled up in the Kingdom in 2015 were typically retrieved by collectors, who sell it to repair shops where reusable parts are salvaged. The rest is “disposed of through municipal waste systems, burned by owners or discarded in dumpsites or landfills”, causing “extreme” pollution.

The report noted illegal e-waste imports to Cambodia continue despite a ban on importing hazardous waste, and though there are no specific regulations for e-waste management, the Ministry of Environment was planning to develop a new sub-decree to broach the issue. Ministry of Environment officials were unavailable yesterday.

World Wildlife Fund country director Chhith Sam Ath said the trend was a “concern” and urged the government to study the effects on human health.

“Because there are more mobile phones . . . and the batteries are full of the chemicals; when it drops into the water or the land, it can really have an impact,” he said.

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