Enquiries revealed that most of the junked electronic equipment are exported from Doha to Dubai where they are separated and recycled. “So, I don't think we have a huge problem yet in our hands,” the environmentalist said.
The current landfill of Qatar, at Umm Al Afai, has been in use for several years. Since it is of vintage making, its lining is not designed to prevent leaching onto the ground. However, the new hazardous waste treatment plant at Mesaieed, which is partly commissioned, is modern and sophisticated. Though it can receive hazardous materials, it is not designed to handle e-wastes, it is understood.
Qatar cannot be really faulted for not having a policy on e-wastes yet. The United Nations started considering the safe disposal of old mobile phones and computer equipment only as late as June this year at a waste management meeting in Bali.
The ninth meeting of the parties to the 1989 Basel Convention considered new guidelines for getting rid of phones and other e-waste in a way that protected both the environment and human health.
The use of mobile phones has grown exponentially from the first few users in the 1970s, to 1.76bn in 2004, and more than 3bn in April 2008, according to the UN Environment Programme and the secretariat of the Basel Convention. “Sooner or later, these phones will be discarded, whole or in parts.”
Participants at the five-day meeting looked at guidelines proposed by the Basel Convention Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative, which was launched in 2002 and brings mobile phone manufacturers and service providers together with the Convention.
The Bali meeting also saw the launch of the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE), which provided a forum for governments, industry leaders, non-governmental organisations and academia to tackle the disposal of old computer equipment, including through global recycling schemes.
In the light of the UN decisions, Qatar too would soon have a policy on e-waste disposal, the environmentalist said.