However, recycling the usual household items such as newspapers, bottles and plastics is a lot easier than recycling e-waste as most do not know where to dispose of their unusable electronics.
PhD candidate Norjulia Ahmad Mahir, 31, said she had been holding on to her old mobile phones and other electronics as she did not know where to dispose of them.
“I know it has a bad effect on the environment and that’s why I do not simply throw them out,” she said.
Her “stash” includes two smartphones, a charger, a battery, a compact camera and a video camcorder, all unusable.
Norjulia considers herself an advocate of green living. Some of her green efforts include using cloth diapers for her young daughter.
“I’m all for a greener environment. I recycle normal household items on a regular basis but e-waste is a bit hard because I can’t find e-waste recycling centres,” she lamented.
Amira Suraya Azaharin also did not know where to dispose of her small electronics back in her home in Shah Alam and resorted to throwing an epilator in the bin once.
The 28-year-old has taken recycling seriously since moving to Japan for her MBA studies.
“I’m already used to separating paper and bottles back home in Malaysia but living in Tokyo trains me to do it more properly.
“I used to just separate and leave the waste at the recycling centre but in Japan, I make the effort to remove caps and wrappers. It is expected of anyone living in Japan. It’s a lifestyle there,” she said.
For huge electronic appliances and even clothes, Amira said residents needed to call the bulk waste centre to set an appointment.
“They will pick up the items from your house for a fee,” she added.
Amira felt it was easier to do recycling in Japan compared to Malaysia because recycling in Japan is part of the local culture and local authorities reminded residents to recycle daily, including posting recycling posters in residential lifts and common areas.
While some do not know where to discard their old electronics, environmentalist Yasmin Rasyid of EcoKnights said some people held on to their old belongings out of sentiments.
“I know people like my mum who still has her Nokia handphone from 1997. It’s like a nostalgic feeling with some people, so they keep their mobile phones,” she said.
Freelance actor Cheng Zhu Hann, 25, learned the hard way about keeping old electronics – the battery acid from his old Game Boy leaked and seeped into photos and letters he kept in a memory box.
“That Game Boy is my childhood.
“It was a thing I played with the most so I never thought of disposing it. I kept it in the memory box together with other things for safekeeping,” he said.
Cheng said he would go through his memory box every now and then and one time, he found the letters and photos damaged.
“It was covered in this black gooey thing and the Game Boy looked like it was foaming. I realise the battery acid caused it,” he added.
He quickly took out the batteries from other old cameras and electronics and disposed of them.
Yasmin said recycling e-waste was not only important to avoid soil and groundwater contamination but also because of the valuable materials lihe gold, silver and copper in the devices could still be reused for manufacturing.
“What’s more important is that we will reduce the need to mine more of these precious metals and minerals if we can recycle the ones that we are discarding daily.
“In many states in the United States, there is already a ban on sending electronic waste to landfills as the risk of these electronic waste contaminating our soil and water is high,” she added.