Tough law on electronic waste heading to Cabinet

A tough new law that requires manufacturers to collect and dispose of electronics products when consumers want to throw them away was forwarded to the Cabinet for approval last week as the government grapples with the growing problem electronic and plastic pollution.

The National Legislative Assembly must also pass the bill for it to become law, and that body’s whip accepted the draft for reading last week. Passage could be completed by the end of this year. The chief of the Pollution Control Department called last week’s developments a victory.

The issues of electronic and plastic waste have risen to prominence in Thailand in recent months. Thai consumers and companies produce their fair share of electronic waste, but the problem of a massive increase in electronic waste imports brought the issue to the attention of the public when it was discovered that much of that waste was just being tossed into garbage dumps, vacant lots and other places instead of processed in line with environmental standards.

Earlier this year when China stopped accepting electronic and plastic waste from other countries for disposal, many of them began shipping refuse to Thailand and Southeast Asia. Most of the shipments are coming from more developed countries in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. Thailand and its neighbors were caught off guard as the influx exceeded the capacities of local businesses to dispose of the waste properly.

The government has been responding to the problem. One of the first steps taken was to ban imports of electronic and plastic waste. Licenses for the companies that had been importing and improperly dumping that waste were revoked.

Now, the government is going even further, recognizing and using the momentum from public sentiment and support to deal more broadly with waste disposal and environmental concerns.

The draft bill before the Cabinet and the National Legislative Assembly addressed electronics sold in Thailand. Private sector groups that manufacture and sell electronics and electronic equipment lobbied heavily against the bill, and the Cabinet had rejected earlier versions of the draft.

Should this bill succeed, manufacturers would need to set up collection centers for old and used electronic equipment. The draft law covers computers, mobile phones, air conditioners, televisions, and refrigerators.  The bill allows the government to add other types of electronic equipment in the future, such as solar cells or electric vehicle batteries should usage of them become more widespread.