In a joint effort between the Ministry of Environment and Ecobatt Energy Investment International (Ecobatt), over 30 tonnes of electronic waste, including used cell batteries and electrical equipment, were collected between August 2022 and October 2023.

The ministry highlighted the dangers posed by improper disposal of such items, noting that electronic items, from telephones and computers to washing machines and photocopiers, can release toxic substances into the environment if not disposed of properly, affecting both the ecosystem and public health.

According to the ministry, such electronic refuse is particularly hazardous due to the presence of contaminants like mercury, arsenic, nickel, chromium, copper and barium. When these materials are not stored or disposed of correctly, they pose a significant risk to the environment and public health.

“Improper storage or disposal can release harmful substances, causing severe health repercussions, including damage to bone, kidneys, muscle function, the nervous and immune systems, and even impact infants in utero,” it stated.

The ministry urged the public to store electronic rubbish appropriately and make use of designated collection bins or contact the provided helplines – 011399122, 011 999 910 or 017 461 819 – for guidance.

Chheuy Bona, waste manager at Ecobatt, said on October 25 that the company has been collaborating with the ministry since August 2022.

He said that while they have plans to extend their collection drive nationally, their current focus until 2024 remains on the capital. He noted that for provinces, Ecobatt will partner with other contracted firms to facilitate collections.

Bona also provided a breakdown of the collected refuse: over two tonnes of cell batteries, 12 tonnes of other batteries and 17 tonnes of electronic equipment.

He emphasised that the company has dedicated teams sorting the waste for recycling, and dangerous items are stored securely. These items are then sent to overseas partners for handling.

“We adhere strictly to technical specifications when storing [unsafe] waste such as cell batteries. These are then transported to our international associates who have the capabilities to safely dispose of them,” he explained.

He voiced concerns over individuals who disregard proper disposal methods, choosing instead to sell to scrap collectors or leave them in open spaces. He said these trash haulers often extract only the valuable components, leaving the harmful elements exposed.

“We urge everyone to join the ministry and Ecobatt in addressing the environmental impact of these hazardous items. Please consider the environment over short-term gains, as the long-term consequences are dire,” he urged.