The Bangladesh E-waste situation

The information high technology boom in Bangladesh has brought with it a new type of waste; e-waste – a category that barely existed15 years ago. This represents the biggest and fastest growing manufacturing waste. Bangladesh is experiencing increased economic activity that has negative impacts on the environment. Economic activities associated with industry, health services, and other service sectors generate electronic wastes which are causing serious environmental problems that threaten public health and endanger economic sustainability of the country. In order to enhance the cooperation between Governmental and Non- Governmental organizations, between public and private parties and regional cooperation; facilitate a common approach on the e-wastes management; Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO) in association with Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) has conducted research for current situation analysis and to review and compare the existing practices for dealing with e-waste at the national and regional level, and collect information regarding the situation of e-waste in the country.
E-waste problems related to trade off and trans-boundary movement in the developing countries address environmental, social, and economic effects. E-waste has become the fastest growing waste stream in Bangladesh and has emerged as a lucrative business. Every year Bangladesh generates roughly 2.7 million metric tons of e-waste. Out of these 2.7 million metric tons, ship breaking industry alone generates 2.5 million metric tons. Bangladesh import scrap ships from developed countries as it has no/inadequate legal rules and regulations to import such highly polluted scrap products and equipments. According to the UNEP study, the developed nations dump e-waste in “developing” Asian countries (India, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan) through illegal trade routes.
Bangladesh is developing with the increasing of technology usage. Sustainable and safe use of technology can drive an economically developed country. But the wastes from these electronic goods come to us as curse. In Bangladesh, electrical and electronic equipments are consumed and dumped the useless products without any consideration of environmental damages and sustainability. Some of the electronic waste is reused, broken down for parts or thrown out completely. Currently this informal practice is not being carried out safely and has become a hazard to human health and the surrounding environment. At present there is a lack of awareness about the e-waste issue within the general population, government and also in private sector.
Moreover, every year significant no. of scrap ships is imported to Bangladesh by importer legally. These ships are broken in ship breaking yard. During ship breaking, a large number of heavy metals and toxic pollutants release to the environment including oil spills to land and water bodies. As Bangladesh has legal binding to import scrap ships, thus illegal import and trade off of e-waste is happening by importer to make profit and therefore, e-waste vulnerability of Bangladesh is increasing. The scrap ships are carrying large volume of toxics products and electrical & electronic waste that includes: antiques, barometers, clothes irons, electronics, lamps/light bulbs, light switches, paint (Latex), pesticides, television sets, thermometers, mirrors, washing machines, calculators, laptop, LCD monitors, neon lights, sewer pipes, etc.
E-waste generation in Bangladesh
Sources of e-waste
estimated e-waste
Ship Breaking Yards
2.5 million metric ton/yr (2500000 metric ton/yr)
Television Sets
0.182 million metric ton/yr (181896 metric ton/yr)
0.0084 million metric ton/yr (25244.24 metric ton/30yrs)
Mobile Phones
0.0006 million metric ton/yr (6233.04 metric ton/10yrs)
CFL Bulbs
0.0001 million metric ton/yr (566.90 metric ton/6yrs)
Mercury Bulbs
0.0018 million metric ton/yr (1861.32 metric ton/10yrs)
0.0002 million metric ton/yr (8513.59 metric ton/50yrs)
Other Medical & Dental Waste
0.009 million metric ton/yr (93478.25 metric ton/10yrs)
2.702 million metric tons/yr
Bangladesh is one of the highly e-waste generating countries in the world. Of the approximate 45,000 ocean-going ships in the world about 700 (1.55%) are taken out of service every year. The harbors of Bangladesh are the second largest ship breaking industries in the world.
Graphical presentation of E-waste scenario (MMT/ year) of Bangladesh


  • Consequences of poor e-waste handling

The ecological, economic and social consequences resulting from poor handling and management of e-waste include:

Health consequences

  • Breathing cadmium can severely damage the lungs and cause death.
  • Lead attacks the nervous system in both adults and children.
  • Inhaling the hexavalent form of chromium can damage the liver, kidneys, cause lung cancer and asthmatic bronchitis.
  • Chromium easily passes through cell membranes and can cause damage to DNA,
  • Mercury can cause brain and kidney damage and is also harmful to the developing fetus because it can pass through breast milk
  • Cadmium causes cancer and can damage the bones and kidneys, where it accumulates

Environmental consequences

  • Air pollution from burning of e-waste
  • Management problem of non-biodegradable equipment
  • Toxic and radioactive nature of e-waste to the human, plants and animals
  • Blockage of water runoff channels
  • Increased amount of waste
  • Waste disposal problem

Economic consequences

  • Substantial public expenditure on health care
  • Investments in complex and expensive environment remediation technologies
  • Misuse of resources that can be recycled for re-use
  • Opportunities for recycling industries and employment
  • Ozone layer depletion which led to unpredictable weather conditions i.e. Prolonged droughts and floods demand the use of resources which should be deployed for growth and development in other sectors

Social consequences

  • E-waste affects human health (e.g. lead poisoning and cancerous mercury)
  • Growth of informal waste disposal centers in the locality
  • Illegal trade and informal management of e-waste
  • Loss of appreciation for ICT
  • Converting the challenges into opportunities

Despite of the problem with e-waste, its proper management using environmentally sound systems has numerous socio-economic opportunities that can stimulate entrepreneurship, employment and enhancement of livelihoods.
  • Recycling level. Organizations and individuals that will be licensed to recycle will either create job opportunities or self-employ themselves. Experiences across the world indicate that the scale of operation for recycling e-waste is growing at viable and potentially profitable rates.
  • Dismantling and refurbishing level. The refurbished extends the functional life of electronic or electrical equipment by breaking apart the end of use equipment and selling the parts that can still be used. This process, besides creating job opportunities, saves the environment by diverting large volumes of e-waste from energy-intensive down cycling processes where the equipment is reverted to raw materials for use in manufacturing. The environmental and social benefits of refurbishing and reuse include diminished demand for new products and virgin raw materials and diminished use of landfills.
  • Collection level. Through the Producer Responsibility Organization (PRO) and take back systems those who collect e-waste and hand it over to recyclers, refurbishes and treatment plants are paid a take back fee which in away provides for livelihoods.
  • Creation of artificial mines. It is a fact that e-waste contains hundreds of tones of various metals. These metals can be isolated, treated and made available for use in new forms. This is done by establishing metal separation facilities at landfills or e-waste deposits. This process not only creates employment but also reduces metal loading on e- waste deposit sites and hence reduces the risk of soil contamination, besides making available new metals for use.



There is no specific national Policy, Rules or Guidelines for e-waste. None of the existing environmental laws make any direct and detail reference to the handling of electronic and electrical waste. However, preparation of Electrical and Electronic Waste (Management and Handling) Rules is the priority of the Government of Bangladesh.
  • National

There is no comprehensive electronic waste (e-waste) policy, strategy and rules in Bangladesh, although it is briefly mentioned just as an action item in the country’s ICT policy. The government established the Department of Environment (DoE) in 1977 under the Environment Pollution Control (EPC) Ordinance, 1977. Then in 1989, as pollution and environment got more attention, the Ministry of Environment and Forest was established as the apex body. The National Environmental Policy, highlighting the regulation of all activities that pollute and destroy the environment, came into effect in 1992. The subsequent Environment Conservation Act (ECA), 1995 and Environment Conservation Rules (ECR) 1997 authorized the DoE to undertake any activity necessary to conserve and enhance the quality of the environment and to control, prevent and mitigate pollution. The DoE was also mandated to give clearance on environmental issues for any new project.


Table 2: Major Policies, Acts and Regulations that can be relate to e-waste management in Bangladesh
National Science and Technology Policy
This policy is to promote national research activities for the development of the country. In this policy research on “waste management” are emphasized under the area of “environmental science and technology”
National ICT Policy
This policy create a equitable and fair dealing
society 2008
National Renewable Energy Policy
This policy is promoting production of biogas and other green energy from waste and also providing Incentives such CDM to promote green energy projects.
National Urban Policy
CDM and Recycling has been emphasized in this policy.
National Industrial Policy
This policy recommended use of EMS and Cleaner Production practices amongst the industries
This policy recommended use of EMS and Cleaner Production practices amongst the industries 1998 National Policy for Water Supply and Sanitation
According to this policy the government shall take measures for recycling of waste as much as possible and use organic waste materials for compost and bio-gas production.
Urban Management Policy Statement
Recommend the municipalities for privatization of services as well as giving priority to facilities for slum dwellers including provisions of water supply, sanitation and solid waste disposal.
National Environment Policy
In this policy there are provision for banning the use of heavy metals in industrial production; provision for “west permit/consent order” to improve waste management; provision for reducing hazards form the consumer products; provision for banning the import of hazardous substances that are hazards for human health.
The Environment Court Act 2006 National ICT Act
The Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act
Biomedical Waste Management Rules
This rule recommends source separation of hospital waste as well as separate collection, transportation and treatment and disposal of all kinds of hospital and clinical waste.
Lead Acid Battery Recycling and Management Rules
Under this rules collection and recycling has been improved.
National Solid Waste Management Handling Rule 3R principle has been used.
The Environment Conservation Rules
These are rules set by the government of Bangladesh for the protection of environment
National 3R Strategy for Waste Management
Emphasized on the 3R principles for the management of
wastes 2009
Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan
This strategy are emphasized on the priority areas of action that will be taken by the government to combat climate change
National CDM Strategy
This strategy is promoting pro-poor CDM projects on waste sector by harnessing carbon financing
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP)
Here EMS has been promoted. To improve the solid waste management situation, special focus is given to segregation of waste at source along with the promotion of recycle, reduce and reuse of industrial and other solid waste etc.
Action Plan
Dhaka Environment Management Plan
Waste recycling has been promoted, less land filling encouraged, EMS promoted among industries.
Solid Waste Management Action Plan for Eight Secondary Towns in Bangladesh
Under the Secondary Towns Integrated Flood Protection (Phase-2) Project of Local Government Engineering Department, GoB. This action plan is based on 4 R principle i.e. reduce, reuse, recycle and recover of the waste.
 National Environmental Management Action Plan (NEMAP)
This is a plan of the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in consultation with people from all walks of life. 3R is being promoted under the Sustainable Environment Management Programme (SEMP) of NEMAP.
Dhaka Declaration on Waste Management by SAARC countries during 10–12 October 2004
SAARC countries agree to encourage NGOs and private companies to establish community based composting, segregation of waste at source, separate collection and resource recovery from wastes with particular focus on composting.
  • Institutional framework
The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF)
The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) is responsible for the environment at policy level. To achieve this objective, the Ministry’s role is to create an enabling environment through policy and regulatory reforms for environmental and natural resources management.
Department of Environment (DoE)
Department of Environment (DoE) is the principal agency of Bangladesh Government in the implementation of all policies, strategies and regulations relating to the environment. The key objectives include universal compliance and enforcement of environmental regulations, developing guidelines and standards and the prosecution of offenders failing to meet the provisions of the Environmental Conservation Act (ECA) 1995 and Environment Conservation Rules (ECR) 1997.
The lead agencies that are also pertinent to e-waste management include the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Local Government and All City Corporations in Bangladesh, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Ministry of Finance

 Current recycling method of e-waste in Bangladesh
ESDO’s research finding shows that in Bangladesh recycling of e-waste is done manually without having knowledge of e-waste hazards.
  • Categorization based on mode of operation and function
The classification of equipment based on the mode of operation and function reveals the composition of physical components before dismantling in order to facilitate sorting. Table 3 shows some of e waste categories.
 Categories of E-waste
Type of E-waste
ICT and Telecommunications equipment
Mainframes, Printers, Personal computers (CPU, mouse, screen and keyboard included), Laptop computer, Networking equipment, Scanners, Mobile phones, CD / DVDs / Floppy Disks, UPSs, Radio sets, Television sets, Video cameras, Video recorders, Hi-fi recorders, Audio amplifiers and Musical instruments.
Office electronics
Photocopying equipment, Electrical and electronic typewriters, Pocket and desk calculators, Facsimile and Telephones.
Large Household Appliances
Small Household Appliances
Refrigerators, Freezers, Washing machines, Dish washing machines, Cooking equipment, Microwaves, Electric heating appliances, Electric hot plates, Electric radiators, Electric fans, Air conditioner appliances, exhaust ventilation and conditioning equipment, large appliances for heating beds, rooms and seating furniture
Consumer Equipment.
Vacuum cleaners, Carpet sweepers, Water dispensers, Toasters, Fryers, Appliances for hair-cutting, hair drying, brushing teeth, shaving and massage; Electric knives, Clocks, Appliances used for sewing, knitting and weaving
Toys, leisure and sports equipment
Equipment for turning, milling, sanding, grinding, sawing, cutting, shearing, drilling, punching, folding, bending or processing wood, metal and other materials. Tools for riveting, nailing or screwing or removing rivets, nails, screws or similar uses, Tools for welding, soldering or similar use. Tools for mowing or other gardening activities, Sewing machines etc.
Electric trains or car racing sets, Hand-held video game, Video games, Computers for biking, diving, running, rowing, etc., Sports equipment with electric or electronic components.
Fluorescent tubes, Compact fluorescent lamps, High intensity discharge lamps, including pressure sodium lamps and metal halide lamps; Low pressure sodium lamps, Other lighting or equipment for the purpose of spreading or controlling light with the exception of filament bulbs.
Medical equipment
Scanners, Operating equipments, Stethoscopes, Radiotherapy equipment, Cardiology, Dialysis, Pulmonary ventilators, Nuclear medicine equipment, Laboratory equipment for in-vitro diagnosis, Analyzers, Freezers, Fertilization tests.Other appliances for detecting, preventing, monitoring, treating, alleviating illness, injury or disability.
Automatic dispensers
Automatic dispensers for hot drinks, Automatic dispensers for hot or cold bottles or cans, Automatic dispensers for solid products, Automatic dispensers for money, and other
Monitoring and control instruments
appliances which deliver automatically all kind of products.
Smoke detectors, Heating regulators, Thermostats, Measuring, weighing or adjusting appliances for household or as laboratory equipment and other monitoring and control instruments used in industrial installations (e.g. in control panels).
  • Elements found in trace amounts
Elements that are found in trace amounts include americium, antimony, arsenic, barium, bismuth, boron, cobalt, europium, gallium, germanium, gold, indium, lithium, manganese, nickel, niobium, palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, selenium, silver, tantalum, terbium, thorium, titanium, vanadium, and yttrium etc. Almost all electronics contain lead and tin (as solder) and copper (as wire and printed circuit board tracks), though the use of lead-free solder is now being promoted all over the world. Cadmium, mercury, and thallium are also found in small amounts. These substances can be divided further based on their level of toxicity to humans and the environment.
ZincPlating for steel parts
Electrical and electronic equipments
Solder, coatings on component leads
Copper wire, printed circuit board tracks, component leads
Nearly all electronic goods using more than a few watts of power, including
Electrolytic capacitors
Steel chassis, cases, and fixings
1950s–1960s transistorized electronics (bipolar junction
 Silicon Glass, transistors, ICs, printed circuit boards
Nickel-cadmium batteries
Lithium-ion batteries
Plating for steel parts
Connector plating, primarily in computer equipment
  This Documents is Prepared by Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO).