Recycling your old electronic gadgets has always been good for the environment. Now it could help provide assistance to some of the millions of flood victims in Pakistan, too. This week, two UAE-based retailers, Emax electronics and Choithram supermarkets, began collecting potentially harmful "e-waste" at more than 30 specially marked bins across the country. The bins, provided by the recycling company The Green Foundation, will help ensure that hi-tech rubbish such as old laptops, mobile phones and circuit boards are fully recycled rather than dumped in landfills, where they can leach toxic chemicals and leave heaps of hard industrial waste such as wires, plastic and metal.
Under the charity scheme, the cash-back rewards that would normally go to the person bringing in old electronic items could instead contribute towards Pakistan relief. "The idea is very easy," said Jonathan Tozer, who heads the charities department for The Green Foundation. "The retailers have placed drop boxes in all their stores; someone pops in with a mobile or laptop or digital camera, iPod or data console; they put it in one of the drop boxes; we then collect the items, grade them as we normally do, and, instead of that cash going back to the customer, that cash goes to Unicef."
Every dirham helps, Mr Tozer said, and Dh25, which is what an average old mobile phone would fetch, could help vaccinate 68 people in Pakistan. "If your phone's worth Dh20 [cash-back], that's still going to help. If you're looking at giving in an unwanted iPhone, that's like giving nearly Dh1,000 to charity," he said. "When you do the math, that's an absolutely shocking amount. You're looking at helping more than 2,000 people with one very simple act."
The campaign will last roughly a month, though it may be extended. Neelesh Bhatnagar, the chief executive of Emax, called the situation in Pakistan heart-breaking and said his company was happy to contribute to two worthy causes. Emax has used the Green Foundation drop boxes for the past six months. "The charity cause and the environment cause are extremely import to us," he said. "This is just the same programme mechanism, but it's a chance for the customer to make some donation. They're doing their part by not taking the cash, and whatever Emax takes goes to charity."
In an average month, Mr Bhatnagar said his stores collect between 350 and 400 used mobile phones. According to The Green Foundation, three billion units of e-waste are discarded each year globally. Less than 14 per cent of that is recycled. @Email:email@example.com