Sunday, May 26, 2024

E-waste: Convenience at a Cost

By Kristia Daymiel | September 28, 2023

From postcards to prints, papers to screens, and quills to smartpens—technology has allowed our lives to transcend into a plethora of conveniences. 

In just a tap or two, electronics can shoulder a weight from our day-to-day job. Making tasks more feasible and faster to pull off. But as we succumb to the benefits of this technology-enriched epoch, mustn’t it also be good to be mindful of what cost the invention of technology has to unravel for both the planet and human life? 

ELECTRONICS TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND PEOPLE

Electronics when turned into waste do as much harm as it does good to us—not only to our environment, but ultimately to our very own kind. 

Polybrominated flame retardants, mercury, and lead are just some of the toxic compounds dwelling in electronic waste (e-waste) that embed inherent dangers to the environment. As these toxins colonize our soil, water, and air, they bridge back to us through penetration into several products we intake—resulting in health hazards. 

Spawned by these threats, institutions including Silliman University kick off strategies to prevent these dangers from finding a place to fester. 

E-WASTE MEASURES OF SILLIMAN UNIVERSITY 

With class discussions carried out through PowerPoint and notes jotted down through laptops, electronics are abundant within the premises of Silliman University (SU). To most, these gadgets act as a backbone of productivity for students, teachers, and staff.  

After declaring a climate emergency in 2022, Silliman’s guard against existing environmental havoc elevated from just segregation to a plastic ban and zero waste. This also includes a heightened regard for the proper handling of electronic waste. 

 That’s why it is just as important for SU to ensure that all discarded electronics don’t necessarily have to end up in the bin. 

To guarantee the maximum use of its devices before disposal—specifically those that are only replaced for upgrade—SU has already begun its efforts for a more e-waste-friendly campus: by donating its used computers to public schools.

“We have a number of public schools nga who are also writing to Silliman, naka queue na na ilahang mga letter asking for donations of old computers,” said Chuchi Montenegro, head of the SU Information and Communications Technology Department.

(We have a number of schools who are also writing to Silliman asking for donations of old computers. Their letters are now in the queue.)

Silliman also carries out efforts by utilizing every last unit that could go to waste. Likewise, for devices that are not functional at all, their specific working parts are first extracted before they are declared as e-waste. 

Pangahuyan namo na siya [the electronic units that are up for disposal ]… meaning kanang among gi declare as for disposal na kadto na gyud nang wala nay pangahuyan,” Montenegro added. 

(We extract parts from the electronics that are up for disposal…which means those declared for disposal are the ones that don’t have anything to extract from anymore.)

KEEPING THE ECC 

Affixed in the university during its expansion of the Portal East and West is the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC), a certificate granted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for sites that have unique features and impacts. Through the guidelines that determine an institution’s credibility to hold this certification, SU further strengthened its environmental efforts. This includes heightened standards on the proper handling of e-waste. 

Ang eyes sa DENR, naa na nato…nigawa tong ECC because  ni expand naman gud to siya [Portal East, Portal West] ug para commercial. Niya di man ta tagaan ug occupancy permit kung wala tong ECC,” said Marcela Barandog, SU Property Custodian. 

(The DENR’s eyes are on us…we have an ECC because we expanded Portal East and Portal West to commercial. And we won’t be given an occupancy permit if we don’t have that ECC.)

Regardless of the lined-up junk shops that interest the university’s pile of e-waste, Silliman has opted to handle this matter through their proceedings to ensure an Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) authorized handler—making sure they keep their own hands on the job. 

Dili ta ka pasagad ug transport sa e-waste og dili siya [transporter] accredited sa EMB,” explained Engr. Francisco Gutib, SU Pollution Control and Safety Officer. 

(We can’t just choose any e-waste transporter that is not accredited by the EMB.)

Though challenging and meticulous, Silliman sought to keep their attention on how the university’s e-waste is deposited. This ensures that the institution will not leave any traces of toxic electronic components in the environment. 

As of now, the university is still on the lookout for an ideal transporter and e-waste treater.

Plano namo mu hire ug transporter ug treater pero usa ra ka company…as PCO (Pollution Control and Safety Officer), kung ma choose namo siya, muadto ko sa ilang site. Kay di man ta pasalig ug kuha kung ang ilang facility is dili acceptable,” Engr. Gutib clarified. 

(We are planning to hire a transporter and treater that comes from one company…as PCO, if we get to choose them, I’ll go to their site. Because we can’t entrust hiring them if their facility is not acceptable.)

TAKE YOUR OWN MEASURES

Technology arose in a gazillion megabytes, advancing our lives to certain levels of comfort. However, alongside, this too-good-to-be-true invention brought responsibilities for us to shoulder. 

In our simplest practices, e-waste can be mitigated through mindfulness and measures of sustainability. 

Disposing of electronics is more than just throwing it away. Behind getting rid of the devices, there are technicalities that e-waste treaters continue to outsmart — the meticulous process of safe and proper disposal of electronics. 

Electronic waste is composed of scraps of modernity and advancement, trailing a prowess that brings forth liabilities. And as individuals who benefit from this kind of advancement, we must do even the least we can. Because what goes around may come around. What once benefits us may also be the same that will bring us trouble. That the device who once helped you out, could one day intoxicate you. 

Electronics are a heaven-sent convenience, but with a price to pay: accountability.

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