E-waste sees 1,200C annual trading in Bangladesh

Abu Sufian

Trading in discarded equipment such as mobile phones, computers, laptops, and other unused or defective electronic devices in the country involves Tk1,200 crore per annum,

stakeholders say. Those items, despite being widely considered scrap items, are a great

source of precious materials, including bronze, copper, zinc, silver, gold, platinum, and palladium.

The plastic sourced from e-waste is also a valuable substance. Overall, the e-waste market

sees trade of approximately Tk100 crore every month, according to sources. However, there is a massive problem regarding the disposal of the equipment in question. Many

institutions or companies are cautious about it, but the commoners massively ignore the matter. As a result, a huge cache of e-waste ends up in a corner of one’s house, under a

bed, on a roof, or even on the road.

This is causing environmental issues, thus affecting not only crops but also humans and other animals. Given the situation, the stakeholders suggest building mass awareness

regarding the proper management of e-waste. There has been sheer negligence among the people about the recycling of e-waste, they say, adding that the corporate sector plays the

biggest role in their management.

A very small amount of e-waste is also collected in a few other ways, they say. Most of the unused or broken-down mobile phones, computers, printers, refrigerators, air conditioners,

electric fans and lights, televisions, radios, and other electronic devices contain lead, mercury, and cadmium, among other chemical reagents. A roundtable in June this year was

told that Bangladesh is producing 30 lakh tons of e-waste every year. One-third of e-waste comes from smart devices.

The production is growing at a rate of around 30% annually, as was mentioned then. Bangladesh sells electronic goods worth $1.36 billion while generating approximately 2.81

million tons of e-waste every year, a study revealed in October last year. Saidur Rahman Shahin, managing director of Azizu Recycling and E-Waste Company Ltd, said: “For

recycling, we don’t even get 20% of the defective or obsolete mobile phones that are thrown away every year.

“Their users either get those repaired or put them aside at their homes. The recycling plants don’t get the proper supply of such e-waste as estimated,” he said.

“As the first step in recycling, mobile phones are separated from each other. After that, plastics, metals, and integrated circuits (ICs) are removed from every phone,” he said. The

separated plastics are sold as chips, while bronze, copper, zinc, and silver are extracted from the metals, he said, adding that gold, platinum, palladium, and rhodium are also

found in the phones. The precious substances, Shahin said, are based on quality circuit boards. “So, this is not a negligible market at all. It can bring us a great deal of currency

instead,” he said. Bangladesh has a Tk1,200 crore annual market for e-waste, said Shahin, who has a recycling plant in Narayanganj and is planning another plant now. Bangladesh

Mobile Phone Importers’ Association Joint General Secretary Md Mesbah Uddin said that 35 million mobile phone sets are sold in the country every year.

The average life cycle of mobile phones is 2-4 years. It translates into 30 million mobile phones turning into e-waste annually. It is alleged that many mobile phone recycling

companies secretly send ICs to China. The ICs are repaired and reused in the non-branded phone sets imported from China, sources said.

However, nobody officially admitted to doing so. Other than Shanin’s company, there are

more such plants in the country currently. Green Bangla Corporation, JR Enterprise, Yousuf Enterprise, Biz Logistics and Networking Ltd, NH Enterprise, Zaman Enterprise, Techno Fair,

MM Enterprise, Pro Recycling Ltd and Mohammad Syed Trading are among those. These companies secured three-year approval each from the government in May.

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