A study found that Bhutan generated between 1,105 – 1,810 metric tonnes of e-waste in 2014

Waste: Bhutan will handle and dispose off its e-waste in an environmentally friendly way from the next fiscal year, according to the Department of Information Technology and Telecom (DITT).

The department has floated a request for proposals to recruit an e-waste entity to handle and manage e-waste in Bhutan. The process is in its final stage.

“The department will recruit e-waste management entity in the next fiscal year 2016-2017 upon the government’s approval, who will be responsible for collecting, sorting and disposing e-waste in an environmentally safe and secure manner,” a DITT official said.

Despite Bhutan being a signatory to the Basel Convention and having necessary regulations in place, the government is yet to dispose of its e-waste in an environmentally friendly way.

The Basel Convention is an international treaty that limits the movements of hazardous wastes across borders and their disposal.

The Waste Prevention and Management Act, 2009 also requires that e-waste is disposed off in an environmentally sound and safe manner using a system of collection, treatment and self-disposal.

Currently, e-waste generated by the government is dumped at the warehouse of the Department of National Properties (DNP) located in Chamzamtog.

This e-waste includes desktop and laptop personal computers and their associated devices like keyboards, printers, scanners, and interruptible power supply units, among others.

Other e-waste like radiator heaters, telephones, and fridges can also be found dumped at the warehouse.

The DNP then auctions this e-waste to scrap dealers, both local and from India.

A very small portion is sent to schools and shedras in Bhutan.

While the Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2012 requires that government agencies bring their e-waste to the DNP, which is then permitted to auction them to e-waste management entities or any other entities deemed appropriate by the DITT, it is not known whether these scrap dealers handle and dispose of these e-waste in an environmentally friendly way in India.

The Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2012 also requires that the e-waste management entity besides being collected, transported, sorted and recycled in an environmentally sound way, also ensure the occupational health and safety of personnel handling e-waste.

It is also not known whether those handling the e-waste in India are being ensured of their health and safety by their employers.

A survey carried out by NIIT which implemented the recently concluded 5-year Chiphen Rigpel IT project, estimated that e-waste generated in Bhutan ranged from 1,105 – 1,810 metric tonnes in 2014, according to DITT.

More detailed statistics on the amount of e-waste being generated by the government on an annual basis, could not be published as the finance ministry was yet to approve its release in time for the writing of this article.

“Although correct inventorization of e-waste (hazardous & non-hazardous) is a very difficult task, the department is working on broad inventorization of e-waste in collaboration with relevant stakeholders that will give clearer figures on hazardous and non-hazardous e-waste,” the DITT official said.

While the survey carried out by NIIT also found that e-waste generated by the private sector is usually repaired and reused which extends the lifespan of the appliances, appliances beyond repair are sold to scrap dealers, said the the DITT official.

However, the Waste Prevention and Management Regulation 2012 requires producers and importers of electronics to set up collection centres or drop-off sites for e-waste owned by individuals and bulk consumers like the government.

The IT park is perhaps the one of the larger private entities to have imported a large quantity of electronics. The IT park’s chief operating officer, Tshering Cigay Dorji, said as the park was relatively new, the issue of e-waste was not an issue yet. He said no large scale disposal had to be carried out by the park yet. But he acknowledged that with more than 400 employed at the park, the issue of e-waste will arise. He added that while the issue had not received much thought, the IT park will collaborate with relevant agencies to ensure its e-waste is handled and disposed off in an environmentally safe way.

Gyalsten K Dorji