Dumped mobiles and computers raise a stink

Apart from an old 'i-mate JasJam' – one of the most clunky, crash-prone phones out there – I keep my disused mobiles in a knotted tangle of power adapters, handsfree kits and USB connectors in a drawer at home. The purpose of this is a vague sense of eco-guilt, and an even vaguer sense that, one day, there may be a convenient and widespread way to recycle the old handsets.

For the 'e-waste' timebomb is ticking. The UN estimates that the world's annual volume of dumped computers, mobiles, and other electronic items is as much as 50 million tonnes. With the associated release of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, this poses a serious threat to the environment.

Some recycling schemes do operate in the UAE: last year, nearly 65,000 mobile phones were collected through an organisation called EnviroFone. And on World Environment Day last Thursday, Dubai Internet City pledged 250 electronic items to an existing scheme run by Dubai Municipality, the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Foundation and Microsoft.

However, awareness of such schemes is low. An ongoing poll on www.Business24-7.ae found that – at the last count – nearly 60 per cent of businesses are not aware of computer recycling schemes.

Habiba Al Marashi of Emirates Environment Group told me that "there's no big programme to deal with electronic goods", calling for action to "put a good set of legislation in place" to encourage more recycling. One solution comes from Europe. The EU waste electrical and electronic equipment directive imposes the responsibility for the disposal of 'e-waste' on manufacturers of electronic goods.

Another solution is being considered by Dubai Municipality. It is undertaking a study on waste disposal that "will include electronic goods", said Rashed Mohammed Karkain, head of environmental planning. Karkain told me this may include special colour-coded bags to sort 'e-waste', or special chutes in residential blocks, although nothing has been decided yet.

However, ignore all of this when it comes to i-mate JasJams. Mine ended up in the bin.