GIS – The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) are working together to limit the potential environmental risks to Caribbean countries as broadcasters plan and implement the move from analog to digital systems.
The head of the ITU’s Caribbean office, Cleveland Thomas, and CBU Secretary General, Sonia Gill recently announced the launch of the e-Waste Project. Funded by the ITU, the project focuses on providing governments and regulators with up-to-date, relevant policies and laws to manage the disposal or re-use of ICT equipment during the digital transition process.
The project will formulate model policies and laws in the areas of environmental standards, electronic waste management and recycling of televisions, mobile phones and computers. The model policies will also include anti-dumping regulations for televisions that do not conform to regional requirements and international standards.
As the Caribbean joins the rest of the world in digital switch-over (DSO) the CBU has called on the region’s governments to address the major financial, social and environmental implications of the major change. Among the environmental risks both the CBU and ITU have identified are dumping of discarded and or cheap consumer equipment from other countries, where the equipment doesn’t conform to the digital standards chosen by Caribbean countries, resulting in the creation of an “analog wasteland” from the unregulated discarding of ICT equipment.
Head of the ITU’s Caribbean Office, Cleveland Thomas said “there have been alarming reports of e-waste mismanagement in many countries particularly in less developed countries. However this project will help to equip regional governments with the tools to avoid these experiences, which can have a major negative impact in small, developing states like those found in the Caribbean.”
The proliferation of ICT equipment, while having many positive effects and, empowering and liberating people to communicate and providing them with access to information, is also having negative environmental and health effects associated with the inefficient management of e-waste. The prospect of wanton disposal and abandonment of computer motherboards, computer monitors and hard drives littering the landscape, contaminating the soil and water with high concentrations of lead, mercury, thallium, hydrogen cyanide and polyvinyl chloride is indeed an avoidable scenario for Caribbean islands with their fragile ecosystems and biodiversity. An effective e‑waste ecosystem must stand the scrutiny of environment, health and safety standards.