By Cong B. Corrales

WHERE do dead android phones go? Most certainly, not to android heaven.

Dead androids and other e-waste typically get dumped in the wasteland of developing nations,the Philippines included. The problem is, such waste generate toxin cocktails that are not without risks to human health.

A recent study by the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) titled “Global E-waste Monitor 2014” posited that if left unregulated, e-waste will pose a serious threat to human health and the environment.

INFROGRAPHICS by Cong B. Corrales

INFROGRAPHICS by Cong B. Corrales

Based in Tokyo, Japan, UNU-IAS is an autonomous unit of the UN General Assembly dedicated to generating and transferring knowledge and strengthening capacities relevant to global issues of human security, development, and welfare.

E-waste, the study said, refers to all items of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and their parts that have been discarded by their owners as waste, without the intent of using these again.

There are six categories of e-waste, namely:

1. Temperature exchange equipment: refrigerators, freezers, air conditions, heat pumps

2. Screens, monitors: television, computer monitors, laptops, notebooks, and tablets

3. Lamps: flourescent lamps, high intensity discharge lamps and LED lamps

4. Large equipment: washing machines, clothes dryers, dish washing machines, electric stoves, large printing machines, copying equipment, photovoltaic panels

5. Small equipment: vacuum cleaners, microwaves, ventilation equipment, toasters, electric kettles, electric shavers, scales, calculators, radio sets, video cameras, electrical and electronic toys, small electrical and electronic tools, small medical devices, small monitoring and control instruments

6. Small IT and telecommunication equipment: mobile phones, GPS, pocket calculators, routers, personal computers, printers, telephones

Photo by Angelica Carballo-Pago

Photo by Angelica Carballo-Pago

In 2014 alone, the study estimated the total amount e-waste that the world churned out to be a monstrous 41.9 million metric tons.

The “intrinsic material value” of the e-waste generated last year is at least 48 billion euro. It further postulated that by 2018, the total volume of e-waste will rise to 50 metric tons.

In 2014, the world generated e-waste that consisted of:

* 1.0 metric tons of lamps,
* 6.3 Mt of screens
* 3.0 Mt of small IT (such as mobile phones, pocket calculators, personal computers, printers, etc.)
* 12.8 Mt of small equipment (such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, electric shavers, video cameras, etc.)
* 11.8 Mt of large equipment (such as washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, photovoltaic panels, etc.) and * 7.0 Mt of cooling and freezing equipment (temperature exchange equipment).

“The annual supply of toxins from e-waste is 2.2 Mt of lead glass, 0.3 Mt of batteries and 4 kilo tonnes (kt) of ozone-depleting substances (CFCs),” the study said.

In addition, “a cocktail of other toxic substances such as mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, selenium, among others, which can stream into the environment when not properly managed. Health problems associated with such toxins include impaired mental development, cancer, damage to liver and kidneys, miscarriages, and even death,” the study added.


The Philippines reportedly generated 127 kilo tons (kt) of e-waste, or about 1.3 kilogram per Filipino on average.

An environmental group BAN Toxics (BT), however, noted that since the Philippine Congress has yet to approve laws on e-waste regulation, the country is highly susceptible to e-waste dumping from richer countries.

Photo by Angelica Carballo-Pago

Photo by Angelica Carballo-Pago

“As a developing country, the Philippines is very vulnerable to e-waste dumping of richer countries and the poor are taking the brunt of this phenomenon. Our government should ensure proper safeguards are in place to prevent this looming catastrophe of e-waste dumping in our country,” said Angelica Carballo-Pago, BAN Toxics! media and communications manager, in an online interview last week.

A point in case, Carballo-Pago added, is the continuing presence of 50 40-footer container vans of garbage from Canada which also contains e-waste among used adult diapers.

“Money lost on storage and demurrage is P144,000 per day, and it has been more than 700 days since it first arrived here in Manila port,” he said.

A Waste Assessment and Character Study (WACS) on the Canadian imported wastes by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) at the Manila International Container Terminal Yard conducted on November 10, last year decided that there is nothing wrong in disposing the wastes here in the Philippines.

It should be noted, however, that the DENR opened and inspected only three (ZCSU 821145, 819370, 842595) of the 50 container vans, Carballo-Pago said.

“The trend does not show any signs of slowing down and most wastes do end up in a landfill of a poor country such as ours. We call on government to strictly enforce existing laws against waste trade and to act on the Basel Ban Amendment.” – PCIJ, May 2015

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