Critics called on producers of wires and connectors used with mobile devices to use environmentally friendly designs and to encourage recycling by users amid fears the nation’s burgeoning use of the products would result in heavy metal pollution.
According to the Institute for Information Industry, more than 19 million people in the nation own a cellphone, including more than 12 million own smartphones and more than 5.3 million have tablet computers.
An institute survey revealed that over the past three years, more than 7.5 million cellphones, and the equivalent number of accessory kits, which usually include a charger and earphones, were sold per year in the nation.
With the majority of people replacing mobile devices every two-to-three years, there are an estimated 420 tonnes of electronic device accessories discarded every year, computed on the basis that each accessory kit weighs 70g.
A survey conducted by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) revealed that over 550 tonnes of electronic accessories, not including lithium batteries, were recycled last year.
Accessory wires are a health risk due to the use of PVC in wire casings and the plasticizers added to create flexibility, National Tsing Hua University chemistry professor Lin Yung-chien (凌永建) said.
The heat produced by electronic devices can sometimes dissolve di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) particles and emit them into the air, Ling said, adding that recent studies show that the nation’s households have the highest concentration of DEHP worldwide.
DEHP is considered carcinogenic if large enough amounts are accrued in the human body.
Lin also said that burning wires at incinerators causes the emission of dioxin into the air and that the public should avoid buying wires containing PVC.
Chung Hwa University of Medical Technology professor Huang Huan-chang (黃煥彰) said that heavy metal pollution was a persistent problem for the nation and that manufacturers should consider making wires and connectors more environmentally friendly. Decreasing the quantity of accessories offered with mobile devices is also a potential solution to the problem, he said.
One iPhone user, surnamed Chang (張), said she has three sets of earphones, a charging cable and a transmission cable for her iPhone, her iPad and her portable power bank respectively. Chang added that the cable for her iPhone and iPad were incompatible as the charging cable for the iPad was for an older 30-pin version.
Laws enacted two years ago require all mobile phones, excluding Apple products, to use standard USB or micro USB connectors, greatly cutting down the diversity of wires across different phones, the EPA said.
EPA waste management division acting head Lai Ying-ying (賴瑩瑩) said that unwanted cellphone accessories can be given to trash collectors who sell them on to recyclers, usually at about NT$30 per kilogram.
Lai said the EPA offers most cellphone manufacturers, telecommunication companies, convenience stores and stores which sell mobile devices free recycling of electronic device accessories.
National Communication Council spokesman Yu Hsiao-cheng (虞孝成) said the excessive amount of wires sold is a severe waste of resources and the council is mulling a policy to cut down accessories offered when purchasing new devices.
The council would consult environmental protection agencies and academics to formulate a policy aimed at helping both consumers and businesses cut overheads and minimize the depletion of resources and pollution, Yu said.
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