E-waste has been compared to a ‘delayed-action bomb’. Vietnam discharges hundreds of thousand of e-waste into the environment each year.
E-waste originates mostly from households and offices. This could be a household electronic device that is broken and unrecoverable, or devices thrown away because they are no longer fashionable. It could be large-size appliance such as TVs, refrigerators, computers, washing machines and air conditioners, or small ones such as rice cookers, hair dryers, audiovisual equipment, mobile phones and office equipment.
As the selling prices of electronic devices decreases and new products are marketed, households tend to change electronics more regularly, which leads to a sharp increase in e-waste.
According to Nguyen Duc Quang from the Hanoi University of Science & Technology, e-waste could be seen as a kind of resource as it contains many different substances and compounds, including non-renewable ones such as precious metals and rare earth.
At the same time, e-waste is also a source of hazardous waste, which, if not treated properly, will harm the environment and health. Lead in TV tubes and desktop computers, CFC, HFC, and HCFC in old-generation air-conditioners, and mercury in LCD screen, for example, when burned, will produce dioxin and furan which are very harmful to humans.
At present, e-waste in general and electronic circuit boards in particular are collected, dismantled and recycled by private workshops, with outdated technologies and equipment.
In craft villages such as Te Lo in Vinh Phuc, Dan, Bui Dau, Di Su in Hung Yen and Trang Minh in Hai Phong, plastic, steel, copper and aluminum are taken away from electronic waste for sale.
The process consumes energy and produces large waste volume, resulting in loss of resources and harm to people’s health.
In 2015, the PM released Decision 16 stipulating that manufacturers and importers of electronic products must take responsibility to collect their product waste. However, e-waste still has not put under control because there has been no other legal document that guides the implementation of the decision.
The appearance of green baskets put on streets where people can put their electronic waste, and the young men and women in green uniforms has been applauded by Hanoians.
They belong to ‘Viet Nam Tai Che’ (Vietnam Recycles), an organization established in 2015 which collects and recycles defective products or e-waste in a safe and environmentally friendly way.