ASTANA – The government of Kazakhstan is moving to address the growing problem of electronic waste through training programmes, technology disposal receptacles and awareness-raising events, and private electronic recycling companies are taking on the challenge.
“Management of Electronic Waste,” a public-private partnership project launched by the Kazakh Ministry of Energy and the UN Development Programme, began work in April to develop a mechanism for managing electronic waste, including mobile phones, and addressing safety issues in electronic waste recycling. Boxes for collecting obsolete phones were to be installed around cell phone vendors in Astana and Karaganda, and awareness-raising campaigns highlighting the dangers of electronic waste were to be designed.
The results of the programme were presented last month at the EcoTech Conference in Almaty. Collection boxes were installed in the Alser and Sulpak electronics stores in Karaganda and Astana, as well as in the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology at the Kazakh National University, and the Dream Company for environmentally friendly disposal will launch a new campaign in October to install collection boxes across their entire network in Kazakhstan as well as offer discounts on new equipment.
Vyacheslav Tyukhtin, a specialist at an electronic waste recycling company, said the training on waste-disposal was much needed. “Our companies need to strengthen the capacity for recycling electronic waste. We perform standard procedures in selection and disintegration, but often we are faced with a situation where we do not know where to find the right technology. It was very interesting and useful to participate together with other companies in the UNDP-organised training for the processing of electronic waste.”
“This event was the first of its kind held in Kazakhstan. It was virtually the first time public attention was drawn to this issue. We had a wonderful opportunity to listen to international experts from Switzerland and Austria, who have worked in this area for many years. We talked a lot about economic benefits of EPR [extended producer responsibility, a concept that holds the producer of a product responsible for its entire life-cycle, including final disposal], methods of robust management of chemicals in electronics, effective strategies to collect electronic waste, electronics parsing techniques,” Tuykhtin explained.
Roman Mukhin, executive director of the electronic waste recycling company Promtechnoresurs, which will dispose of the electronic waste collected by the project, said, “The population should know about it. We have no support from the government and manufacturers of electronic equipment like subsidies or tax breaks. Also, hazardous constituents are being ignored because the use of best available technologies is hard to find.”
The country is on its way to treating its electronic waste more responsibly, however, he said. “In global practice, one of the most successful ways to support processors of EW [electronic waste] is to introduce the principle of extended producer responsibility. The fact that even in 2013, the principle of EPR became part of the concept for Kazakhstan’s transition to a green economy, is a great encouragement, and Kazakhstan is currently working on the development of relating legislative provisions to make this happen. Therefore, the main aspects of by-laws for EPR in electronic waste, based on international best practices, have become very timely and necessary.”
In addition to training, notices about the eco-boxes have been handed out at electronics stores and announcements about them made at schools and on public transportation. At one store, Alser, 112 phones and two tablets were collected over a period of just one month.
Electronic waste is a growing concern in many countries. Heavy metals and dioxins are often present inside common household electrical products, and when disposed of improperly can leach into soil and groundwater, leading to potentially dangerous chemical build-ups. Highly toxic fumes can be released into the air when plastic and other electronic parts are burnt.
In April, the then-Ministry of Environment and Water Resources announced that 1.5 million personal computers had become electronic waste in Kazakhstan as of 2010.