New legislation aims to tackle electronic waste

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New legislation aims to tackle electronic waste

Public hearings are currently underway to discuss a draft bill written by the Department of Pollution Control (DPC) and aimed at significantly reducing the amount of electronic waste which is presently finding its way into landfills as well as being dumped on public land.

The Electrical and Electronic Equipment Waste Management bill is expected to be presented for debate by the National Assembly no later than February 2016.

According to environmental activists, the bill is desperately needed since electronic waste generated by industry, much of it potentially hazardous, reached 368,314 tonnes in 2014, up by 2.5 percent on the figures released in 2012.

This amount is expected to grow substantially in coming years given that the state itself has given away 22 million set-top boxes in the move to digital TV and then there has been the One Tablet, One Child program.

The proposed legislation includes provision for a hazardous waste tax, recycling, and a compulsory take-back scheme whereby manufacturers are compelled to take back old products when customers want to purchase new ones.

In a first for Thailand, the bill includes modern management technique such as waste separation, something well known to most Europeans and Australians and other developed economies. The bill has provision for the establishment of a waste collection centre and waste recycling plants which will remove hazardous parts while returning that which can be recycled to industry.

Much of the electronic waste now reaching landfills contains potentially hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury, all of which are harmful to health and contaminate the environment.

A retailer will be required to take back an old item when a consumer purchases a new product, regardless of the brand of the old item. Consumers will be required to return waste to retailers or waste collectors and dumping of electronic equipment on public land will be punishable by a fine.

Environment activists say the law has need changing and upgrading for a long time. One leading environmentalist said the 1992 Factory Act imposes some controls, but this has not stopped large amounts of potentially toxic waste being dumped in public spaces.

Under the proposed legislation, manufacturers will have to draw up a waste management plan, although environmental activists believe the end result is likely to be the costs passed on to the consumers by way of increased prices for electronic equipment.

There is also the possibility of fraud of a manufacturer and a waste management company set up a joint venture, with the former then being able to claim the waste management company’s record of disposal as its own.

Of course, all these issues will need to be addressed before the bill finally goes before parliament. 

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