Greenpeace Philippines, Ecowaste Coalition, and Medicins Du Monde (MDM) bring together various civil society groups to strengthen the civil society push on the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) Bill on electronic waste (e-waste).
EPR is a policy principle to promote total life cycle environmental improvements of product systems by extending the responsibilities of the manufacturer of the product to various parts of the product’s life cycle, and especially to the take-back, recovery and final disposal of the product. E-waste are electronic products such as mobile phones, computers, television sets, and other electronic appliances and equipment that have become unwanted, non-working or obsolete, and have reached the end of their useful life.
Greenpeace believes that a policy on EPR is urgently needed in the Philippines to tackle this “unprecedented tsunami of e-waste,” especially now that technology advances at a very fast rate, and electronic products are becoming obsolete and not useful in a few years. Such a policy addresses both waste and pollution problems and makes consumption both more economically and environmentally sustainable.
“We need a strong and united civil society to push for the passage of the EPR bill to protect the environment and its inhabitants from pollution brought about by the proliferation of e-waste,” said Abigail Aguilar, Toxics Campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.
“The bill will ultimately put the burden of controlling and disposing the increasing number of e-waste to its producers – the big companies who have the capacity to treat and properly dispose their discarded or end-of-life products. When producers face the physical burden of recycling or taking back their products, they are now compelled to design much more sustainable, less toxic, easily recyclable electronics. EPR encourages the producers to then design their products with recycling as an end goal or perhaps create products that simply last longer.”
E-waste has been considered the fastest rising toxic waste stream. A study released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) last May 2015 stated that the electronic industry produces up to 41 million tonnes of e-waste each year, up to 90 percent of which is illegally traded or dumped in developing countries.
The growing e-waste crisis is creating even more problems than what the Philippines can handle. Hazardous materials create even more toxic waste and health impacts, especially for the informal laborers and waste pickers, communities who are the most exposed to heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, halogenated substances including brominated flame-retardants, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
“We believe in the importance of advocating for the promotion of informal workers’ rights. The EPR bill acknowledges the contribution of the informal sector to the management of e-waste. This recognition will promote workers’ rights such as safe work practices, will contribute to reduce the exposure to toxicants contained into electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) of informal e-waste dismantlers and their families, and therefore to protect their health. By addressing the responsibilities to reduce toxicity and waste, the EPR bill promotes the protection of the environment, which is one determinant of global health,” said Elena Vicario, General Coordinator of MDM.
Over the years, efforts to deal with e-waste legislation have been unsuccessful. The Philippines is a signatory to the 1989 Basel Convention, but not to the Basel Ban Amendment, which bans all exports of hazardous wastes from developed countries to all other countries for any reason. This will allow import of e-waste for processing. Philippine NGOs has been lobbying for the ratification on the Basel Ban Amendment.
Currently, the DENR has initiated the drafting of the “Guidelines On The Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) Of Waste Electrical And Electronic Equipment (WEEE)” which organizations like Greenpeace, Ecowaste Coalition, and MDM have welcomed and support.
“With EPR, we hope to bring about a design revolution that will cut, if not eliminate, hazardous substances in electronic and electrical products and reduce the hazards these products pose during manufacturing, recycling and disposal. By designing toxics out of e-products, we minimize occupational exposure to dangerous pollutants, especially among factory workers and recyclers,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.