The Ewaste In Thailand Information Technology Essay

Presently, Thailand is one of developing countries in South East Asia which still has a substantial economic growth rate after recovering either from the global economic downturn a decade ago or even recent problem of internal political situation. The average consumption of the domestic economy still relies on the agricultural, tourist and manufacture industries.

In addition, since there are various changes under the development of globalization such as changing in global market, inter-country trade and technology which will have a great impact to Thailand as an export country. In particular the environmental issue considered to be a trade barrier that many countries including the EU’s Member States have imposed a strong measure to protect the environment. In addition another impact of e-waste is with regard to the increasing of exporting illegal e-waste to developing country like Thailand from irresponsible companies in those countries who impose the strict measure of recycling, recovery and disposing e-waste. Therefore Thailand itself needs to adapt its environmental law and policy by upgrading the environmental standards to protect the environment in order to meet the global standard, along with maintaining in a sustainable balance in its natural resources as well as to increase the green awareness to among people in the country. [1] 

This chapter will examine the current situation of e-waste management in Thailand particularly the potential of law taking up with this matter.

Current E-waste situation in Thailand

Since the time of industrialisation was boomed in Thailand a decade ago, the amount of e-waste in Thailand has never been stop increasing. In addition the estimation of domestic consumption of electronic devices and also the manufacturing section either for the exportation and for the importation are appear to be considerably rising. [2] 

Hence, two major factors of e-waste will be identified.

The management failure of the domestic e-waste.

Thailand still has no appropriate e-waste management system. [3] There are two important stages to be considered namely, separation, collection and disposal.

Separation

The waste separation in Thailand is demonstrated to the voluntary form by householders and communities. Furthermore their actions are appeared to be independent from the power of the local government authority. Thus when the waste separation activity has been inappropriately conducted, discarded electronic products which are contained with hazardous substances can be mixed with municipal wastes. This matter can be recognised to a significant decrease of environmental awareness in Thai nation. Akarapin claims that a lack of the awareness and discipline in Thai society is considered to be a major factor which has an impact to the environment. [4] Nowadays although a green education and environmental protection campaigns have been rising through the media such as advertisements and internet. However an environmentally friendly behaviour can be only seen in some groups not through the nationwide. This is because, undoubtedly, poverty and the competitiveness in the Thai society are remained to be the major problem to develop environmental awareness among people.

Moreover, a waste separation by voluntary form can create e-waste matter. In Thai society, there is an informal waste service business or commonly known as an informal individual buyer. This kind of service has overlapped actions between charity and business. Most of informal individual buyers can be mostly seen in a big city like Bangkok that has a high consumption. They will go from place to place and buy discarded product with a small amount of money or sometime some households will give them for free of charge. After buying those wastes, they will separate those waste and select only valued materials such as copper, metal, aluminium and plastic and then sell those materials as a middle man to licensed waste buyers. A problem to this point is that if they have separate waste in an inappropriate way, as a result it leads to environmental damage and also health problem.

Mostly in developing countries, the separation activity has been carelessly conducted without the strong measures from public sector to prevent the pollution which may arise from the process of separation, incineration and using acid to extract value materials. [5] 

However, apart from informal voluntary form, there is a voluntary take-back scheme which normally is introduced by a multinational company. In comparison to in formal voluntary form in the Thai society, this scheme is appeared to be more practical in a proper way of waste separation such as the take back scheme from one mobile phone companies. [6] However the schemes are seem to be efficient launching by a big company with adequate financing for such an environmental scheme. Likewise, the Greenpeace international, by rating electronic companies in Thailand, found that those companies are still not ready to be responsible for take back scheme according to a various factor such as financial support and lack of technology. [7] 

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Collection

The waste collection system is in general operated by local governments. The Public Health Act B.E. 2535 (1992) [8] is an important law which has a potential dealing with municipal wastes, pollution from commercial activities in urban areas. According to this act, local officials are authorised in order to collect and dispose municipal wastes and to issue the license for the business that operate waste service such as collecting, transporting or disposing of solid or sewage waste. [9] 

In practical, those local governments are almost appeared to be incapable of providing a comprehensive and effective waste service. [10] 

Mostly the problems of local administration are a lack of personnel, expertises, sophisticated technology and financial support to improve the efficient e-waste management. Furthermore, in terms of establishing charge that the Minister of Public Health has the power to set the maximum charge for the collection service by ministerial regulation. [11] This charge normally is set in a very low rate (on the average of 40 Baht per household or around £0.80). [12] To this point, it can link to the matter of waste separation e that people are hardly aware of the environmental impact. In addition there is the fact that nowadays the local governments have been given more power to set their own fees, however the rate they set seem lower than 40 Baht per household. Kaosa-ard argues to this matter that it reflects the reluctance on the part of local government to implement measures regarding to the political advantages. [13] In the other word it can be referred as the failure of political system in Thailand.

Import of e-waste from other countries.

Nowadays the demand of second hand products in particular from electronic waste has an effect on the increase of e-waste in Thailand. With regard to the product price, rather buying new products, the second hand products are seem to be more attractive for people who have low income that appear to be a majority population in Thailand. The characteristic and behaviour of Thai consumers can be considered as background. Normally the life cycle of electronic product in Thailand seem to be longer by repairing and reuse. Second hand markets and repairing shops are to be as a place to recycle and reuse those imported waste. Some repairing shops are proved that they have met the standard by granted a license from the authority that they will provide the proper process of repairing. The repairing shops are very popular according to cheap repairing cost and with a potential of skilled labours that are to be more attractive to people. [14] However, the problem may not happen from those shops but rather to unlicensed shops which have poor facilities of reparation. As a result, Greenpeace international found that it will have an impact on human health under the inappropriate working condition. [15] 

Regulatory control of e-waste management in Thailand.

The environment regulation in Thailand mostly is fundamentally based on the command and control system. In addition the economic instruments (mostly confined as fees) are hardly to be used. The following issues will be demonstrated the development of regulatory control of e-waste in Thailand. To begin with, the e-waste policy will be first to examine, following with the existing laws respectively.

Policy: Integration of e-waste strategic plan

According to the current statue of e-waste in Thailand as mention before, the Thai Government has introduced the policy referred as the e-waste strategic plan on July 2007 in order to encompass the government sectors both central and local government, business sectors and communities through the brainstorming for the better solution in Thailand. [16] 

The policy has been focused on both economic and environmental aspects. It aims to have a comprehensive e-waste management for the communities based on the proper the 3R theory (reuse, recycle and recovery) and to promote electronic manufacturers to produce environmentally friendly products in order to meet the international standard and to acquire a negotiation power to the world market. [17] In addition the Government expects that it will be accomplished all the purposes by B.E. 2560 (2017). [18] 

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The Government has set the strategic plan into five stages namely; developing technology for green product, developing the e-waste management knowledge by cooperating with the government agencies and civil society, improving the existing regulation and its enforcement, using the fiscal measures by promoting the investment for eco-manufacturing business and recycling facilities and finally developing effective and comprehensive e-waste management. [19] 

Specifically to the developing of legal strategy, it has been divided into 2 phrases- the short term and the long term. For the short term, the strategy will be implemented under the regulations of controlling the importation of deteriorated electronic products in order to tackle with the illegal importation of e-waste. [20] In addition it will be implemented under the regulation on the information disclosure of the type and quality information of hazardous substances contained in electronic products to the importers and manufacturers. On the other hand, for the long term, the strategy will be purposed in order to enact the law concerning the fiscal mechanism in order to promote the purchase-back scheme of electronic waste, along with improving the local legislation of disposing e-waste.

Furthermore, under the legal strategy, the Pollution Control Department used to publish the draft of the promotion of Hazardous Waste Management from Used Product Act or referred as Thai WEEE Bill in 2005. However this Bill has been transferred to other regulator later (Fiscal Department) in order to join it with the incoming draft of Economic Instruments Act.

The next section is going to examine the existing laws and the enforcement problem.

Existing regulation

The current situation of Thai environmental law related to the management of e-waste is still relied on the use of command and control system. According to its potential in particular in the context of Thai environmental laws, it remains a number of problems. Kaosa-ard and Rayanakorn note that the matters mostly are arisen from a number of reasons such as a lack of strictness, imposing light penalty and low rate of fine and the reluctance of enforcing laws by government agencies. [21] 

At present, Thailand has no specific laws that for controlling e-waste as similar to the EU or several Asian industrialise countries such as Japan or Taiwan. Laws involved in controlling e-waste, are separated under a range of governmental agencies. Therefore it leads to a significant problem of the implementation and enforcement of law. To those problems, this part will be outline to the problem of Thai laws related to e-waste.

Compared to the WEEE Directive, there is no exact e-waste definition under the Thai law. It will be rather referred in the context of hazardous waste which will be controlled under the Hazardous substance Act B.E. 2535. Consequently there is a problem of interpretation in particular the matter of identifying of polluter that theoretically the person who is responsible for the pollution should involve paying for the result of the pollution. [22] 

In addition, as e-waste contained with a valuable materials such as gold and also hazardous substances, there are a range of law involving such as the Hazardous Substances Act B.E. 2535 and the Mineral Act B.E. 2510.

In particular the relationship with the Mineral Act that there is valuable material such as gold extracted in the final stage of recycling, thus it is unclear in which laws will be used to control under the recycling process (between the Factory Act and Mineral Act) including the responsibility of the government authority. It leads to the problem of implementation and also enforcement by authorities.

Manomaivibool notes that if there is an involvement of various laws engaging to the management of e-waste, thus practically it can be contributed to the loophole of law in terms of implementation and enforcement. [23] This point can be seen as fragmentation of institutional authority. The authority of controlling e-waste has been variously placed in a range of governmental agencies and it is appeared to be a major problem of Thai environmental law. Some industrial commentator argues that Thai governmental agencies are lack of cooperation and it should have a single institution to be responsible to the complex issue like e-waste. [24] 

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The incoming of Thai e-waste law

In the past many government agencies whose work related to the environment try to purpose the economic instruments to their policy and legislation. One of them is a draft of the Promotion of Hazardous Waste Management from Used Products Act by the Pollution Control Department or can be referred as a draft of Thai WEEE Bill. The study of the draft has been derived the cooperation from the Japanese government and it was the first study of the amount of e-waste generated and also the volume of its treatment.

This draft has been purposed one of the economic instruments namely product charge in order to promote the establishment of take-back system under the control of local governments. The basic idea is that a fee collected from manufacturers and importers will be sent to recycling fund in order to finance the collection center. The procedure can be indicated that consumers are able to collect refunds when they bring e-wastes to a certificated collection center and then collection centers will receive a subsidy from the recycling fund based on the amount collected. Next, collection centers will sell those e-wastes to licensed recycling factories. The benefit of this draft is that the local governments will be able to certify individual and business such as retail and repair shops, recycling companies, community organization as collection centers. Again, there is a criticism that there will be difficult to deal with informal waste collection and treatment and some recycle companies will not participate if this matter is not being discussed. In addition some multinational companies especially the telecommunication industry do not agree with the idea of recycling funds because the cost of materials in this industry seem to be higher than other products, thus they concern that it will not be cost-effective to their industry if the fund will be used to subsidise other products. As they can accommodate the proper recycling facilities, they would rather purpose to set their own recycling system rather than paying fee to the government.

For the current process of the draft, it has been merged with the draft of Economic Instruments Act which is to be believed as a master of law in terms of implying the economic instruments to every government sectors depending on their environmental management policy. In fact the Ministry of Finance will not allow other governmental agencies to establish the environmental fund because it will have an impact on national fiscal discipline. The status of the draft is now entered into the process of cabinet consideration and unpublished.

Conclusion: What Thailand need to improve e-waste management system?

E-waste is a direct consequence of the modern lifestyle every society throughout the world. Such a rapid growth of the amount of e-waste each year is dramatically affected to the environment and also the economy in Thailand. This is because there is no comprehensive e-waste management such as proper recycling facilities.

Most recycling facilities in Thailand are operated by informal sector which does not have proper technology, so it may contributed to the human health, the damage to surrounded environment and the lost of valuable natural resources contained in the electronic products.

Again in terms of economic aspect is the concern about the international trade especially the negotiation power with other developed countries that has already implemented the e-waste legislation such as the EU and Japan. With regard to all concerns, the Thai government has not been at ease to this impact. Rather it has designed the strategic plan for e-waste including the capacity to develop laws which is hoped to manage the e-waste problem.

However there remain a number of criticisms to this incoming law in a various way whether the management of recycling fund, the enforcement of related authorities, and the benefit concern from business sectors.

From the author point of view, even though it seem that Thailand would have met a lot of barriers to achieve the e-waste management especially using the legal as a driving instrument. With regard to the improvement in the future, I believe that Thailand has a considerable potential and is ready to learn the new experience from other country which can be seen as a good guideline for the development of e-waste legislation.

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