E-waste road in E-Moldova
The ICT sector has a heavy footprint on environment and human health, hence the efficient management of e-waste is a legal obligation and accountability towards people.
New electronic and electric devices emerge each day on the market. To cope with consumers’ preferences, who become more and more demanding, the equipment advances in colors, size and parameters. Being willing to use them, people buy new products without giving up to the outdated ones.
Chisinau inhabitants admit that they keep the old devices due to different reasons:
“I have at home an iron and a TV set, and some other devices which are still operational, but I do not use them, and I should get rid of them,” tells us Tamara.
“Talking about telephones …, I do not throw them away, I do not give them to anyone. I just keep them, maybe my grandchildren will be interested in the old technology we had during our time,” states Denis.
“Well, I have one, and I am thinking where I can throw it. And I did not find a place,” mentions Maria.
According to the 2018 data of the Environment Protection Inspectorate, the import of electric and electronic equipment in the Republic of Moldova was 4.5 kg/inhabitant.
Electric and electronic waste is a ticking time-bomb for environment and health
It might be the alkaline batteries left in the kids’ toys or the TV set, which remained as a piece of furniture — all of them have an impact on people’s health. Andrei Turcan, inhabitant of Chisinau, is firmly convinced of this, and he has found the ideal solution to get rid of e-waste, namely by collecting it separately and placing them in specialized containers for collecting such type of waste:
“I have chosen this option, because we accumulate a lot of useless things over the years in our houses. I mean, old batteries that remained in our kids’ toys, that we all forgot about. Also, personal gadgets, different left-over telephones as we have switched to a new generation. The old ones are accumulated at home, because you know that by throwing along with other types of waste, will pollute the environment. I recommend to all of you to use this method for this type of waste, as everything that ends up here is afterwards reused.”
Specialists warn that e-waste is very dangerous for environment and health, containing such substances as: lead, bromine, mercury, and halogen substances. All of them may influence the ability to learn and memorize, may damage the nervous and blood systems, kidneys, immune system, and other.
E-waste category includes:
- Big and small household appliances;
- Information and telecommunication equipment;
- Consumer equipment;
- Lighting equipment;
- Electric and electronic tools (except for big-size fixed industrial tools);
- Toys, sport and recreation equipment;
- Medical devices, except for implanted and infected products (radiotherapy equipment, cardiology equipment, dialyzers, lung ventilators, nuclear medicine equipment, lab equipment for in-vitro diagnosis, etc.);
- Surveillance and control tools;
- Automated distributors.
Clean city with recycled e-waste
“The electronic and electric waste, named also e-waste, cannot be mixed with other domestic waste; this is a totally different category of waste. This is a very toxic waste, among the most toxic ones and a lot of researches has proved that the entire Mendeleev’s table may be found in this waste and when getting into contact with soils and water, they may become more harmful,” states Aurelia Bahnaru, Chairperson of the Association for Waste Recovery.
The lack of minimum necessary infrastructure for collecting e-waste, constantly cause the increasing of e-waste quantities. Dumping e-waste together will all other domestic waste became the final straw for environmental activists. This served as basis for the “Clean city with recycled e-waste” project concept, which is implemented by the Association for Waste Recovery with the support of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme, implemented by UNDP.
The “Clean city with recycled e-waste” project has involved over 80 beneficiaries from the public and private sectors, including the academic environment, who became recycling ambassadors.
Over 30,000 pupils got actively involved by Hai Moldova in awareness actions and education activities meant to increase accountability for environment. They do their best to convince their peers that e-waste cannot share either the same containers as the rest of domestic waste or the same houses with people.
Selective collection in specialized containers — the only non-harmful solution for getting rid of e-waste
About 80 collecting points of e-waste are available so far in Chisinau municipality. People may dispose their mobile telephones, batteries, irons, hairdryers, toasters, tablets, laptops, cables, and others. The containers may be found for example in some shops of Fourchette, Linella and Maximum chains.
Another category of e-waste, not less dangerous, but much more difficult to be eliminated is the big-size e-waste, such as washing machines, fridges, vacuum cleaners, etc. The project provided support for placing some big-size containers at Bemol gas stations’ platforms.
One of the companies that joined this initiative is Riolit Sistem, which has recently started hosting a container for big-size e-waste.
“We have a box here. It is rather big, and people may throw there any recycling products, even the big ones. Even a TV set and a washing machine if it fits, and different types of plastic and metal which is being recycled. It’s super. I recommend to all companies dealing with equipment to get such a box,” states Sergiu Gusila, manager at Riolit Sistem.
Only within five months, during April-August 2019, a volume of 3.5 tons of e-waste of different types was collected with the project’s support.
The path of collected e-waste
The e-waste in Moldova is collected by three companies authorized to recycle electronic devices and household appliances.
“The waste collected in our containers or brought to our platform gets to the storage, and here our colleagues — the disassemblers get the waste sorted by different types of waste, such as plastic, glass, metals, cables, which are following afterwards their own path. The waste which may be recycled goes to our partners who deal directly with recycling. As for the rest, a part is recovered on the spot, and another part is exported so as to be processed in other countries,” states Ruslan Nercas, Executive Director at “MoldRec”.
Being authorized for collecting, transporting and trading waste of electric and electronic equipment, “MoldRec” collected last year 297,937 tons of e-waste, out of which 97,437 tons were exported to Romania for recycling.
Free of charge taking over of e-waste of small size — a legal obligation
Most of electronic waste comes at the recycling platforms from big companies. The Regulation on Waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment is enforced since 2018. The companies placing on the market electric and electronic equipment are obliged to take over free of charge the e-waste of small size.
“First of all, we acknowledge the impact technology has on the environment in which we live. We have a special corner in every shop where everyone can come and leave the phone to be recycled,” states Ioana Jipa, Head of Supply Chain and Purchasing at Orange Moldova.
The manufacturers and importers of electronic and electronic equipment which fall under the scope of the extended producer responsibility, are obliged to set up centers for collecting waste of electric and electronic devices and household appliances, as well as for used batteries and portable accumulators. For this purpose, manufacturers should provide special containers for collecting such waste. The distributor has the obligation to place the collecting container in a visible place at the selling site.
The companies not complying with the legal provisions undergo the risk to be sanctioned, notes Iuliana Cantaragiu, State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Regional Development and Environment:
“What the Ministry does is to continuously conduct information sessions for companies responsible to set up the system, which implies that the companies placing on the market a product with the possibility to become electric or electronic waste, for instance batteries, should ensure as well the process of taking over these types of waste from the market.”
Hence, the article 154 of the Contravention Code stipulates sanctions such as fines from 120 to 180 conventional units (one conventional unit = 50 lei) for legal entities which do not observe the set modality for collecting, transporting, storing, etc. The Contravention Code also stipulates fines from 12 to 24 conventional units for individuals or unremunerated community work of up to 60 hours.
Text: Laura Bohantova. Photo & video: Denis Rusu