Friday, June 02, 2006

Used batteries

I read in Al Ghad yesterday that the ministry of environment is issuing guidelines for dealing with hazardous waste in Jordan. Apparently this is on the occasion of the starting the work on the hazardous waste facility at Suwaqa. While this development is great, it seems to have come a little late. How is hazardous waste currently being dealt with?

I go through a crisis every time I realize that I need a new battery for my phone. This is because rechargeable nickel cadmium batteries are extremely harmful to the environment. Cadmium is a highly toxic heavy metal that can leach into the ground water. It should be disposed of or recycled in special facilities designed for dealing with hazardous waste.

If one is to assume that a telephone battery needs to be changed every two years, with over one million cell phones in the country, this means that about half a million used nickel cadmium batteries are thrown into the trash every year. These are mixed with banana peels, egg shells, used tissues and all other types of household waste. Municipal garbage dumps are simple pits where scavengers sift through looking for material that can be recycled, such as iron, copper and aluminum. In an effort to reduce volume, much of what is left is incinerated and buried. Of course, no effort or planning is made to mitigate the effect of hazardous waste, on people or the environment, simply because these facilities are not designed for this. In effect, very little is known about the short and long term effects of this on our precious groundwater resources.

So, the first time I had to change my phone battery, I roamed around town for half a day looking for somebody to tell me where the old battery should be disposed of. They all told me to simply through it in the trash. Being a stubborn person, I wrapped it in a plastic bag and kept in the drawer next to my bed, in the hope that one day, a suitable way of disposing of it would be provided. A year later, and after much nagging from my wife, it went into the trash.



At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A little Too late if you ask me.
When people have grown up with such landscapes as "Birket el Bibsi" (Pepsi pool) and "Mamnoo3 tar7 el anqad" (No dumping of rubble). It took the government what, a good thirty years to do come up with this. And Now? I'm not sure what the motives are, but I think the first thing they can do is regulate how industry is handling and managing waste. Then move on to the second tier, people.
The next point is the fact that these facilities are really far, no one is about to drive 70KM to get rid of their cell phone battery, chances are, they'll fling it from their car window doing 100km/h for amusement.
In more developed countries, there are specialized dumpsters that are available to the public everywhere, in addition to frequent campaigns to collect these hazardous materials. Of course it costs WAY more in other countries than the 1JD we pay.
But look at the other problem. Every Jordanian home has tons of hazardous materials. Batteries, Bleach, Kerosene (Kaz for the heaters) probably some Gas, a lot of thinner, paint, coal, and many other extremely hazardous materials. So it's going to be a quite a herculean effort to pull this off

At 2:38 AM, Blogger Rambling Hal said...

Hi ya Khalaf!

I've come across a news item that is sort of related to what you speak of, and might be encouraging (I hope!).

Apparently, Jordan will be the first country in the region to start up an 'environmental police' department. They'll be on the look out for violations in litter dumping all the way to industrial pollution, and should be up and running by September of this - approx 600 to 1000 officers, all in special uniform to differentiate them from regular police.

They will roam throughout Jordan and enfore 18 active environment laws (I didn't know we had that many laws!) and here are the kinds of fines we are looking at:

Littering streets: JD20 (FINALLY...I have gone on and on about how I think people who litter should be FINED so they'd STOP)

Cutting trees without obtaining a permit: JD200

Violations in the disposal of hazardous and nuclear materials (do we even have nuclear materials in Jordan??): JD10,000 up to JD 50,000

Still, this doesn't answer HOW exactly we're supposed to dispose of hazardous material like a cell phone's battery, eh?

At 2:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its a start at least, and a good effort, but more should be done.

At 2:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the US, littering some areas is punishable by a $1000 fine. And you can even report it via cell phone from your car. In the state I live, we pay 10 cents deposit on most beverage cans and bottles...Aluminum and plastic and of course glass. Lost of people (poor, homeless, and in some cases the rich) go out an collect these abandoned containers and return them to stores for a handsome reward. Lets just say our roads highways are pretty clean compared to neighboring states as a result.

I really hope the recycling thing takes off in Jordan. We need to change the mentality that it is not OK to litter. I cringe when I see the young and old alike, eat that shawerma and throw away the wrapper, drink that Pepsi and throw the can out the window. I mean come on, could they not just have a bag in their cars to collect the trash and empty it say once a week. Does't sound too difficult does it?!?!

I am lucky that in my city the recycling is picked up on the curb outside my house. They even provide the containers for us to use. One for glass and metal and the other for paper, magazines, cardboard. They even allow you to place motor oil and used batteries on the curb and they haul these away as well. I must say they make it very easy and just about everyone participates.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Qwaider: I agree with all that you said. Hopefully, this is a real move with real intentions, rather than PR.

Hal: I beleive that the environmental police will make an impact when I see it. Jordan has a problem enforcing laws, and until proven otherwise, I will remain sceptical.

Onzlo: Agreed. Much more should be done on the ground, not in the media.

Luai: It took the west a long time and they inflicted a lot of damage on their environment before they reached the stage you describe. Hopefully we can avoid learning the hard way.

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