DUBAI // If you have a new mobile phone and you're about to throw away the old one, think again.
That is the message from the organisers of a new campaign to collect unwanted electronic items and distribute them to the needy.
The campaign, called Pass It On, began in Dubai yesterday and runs until January 1.
Anyone living in the Green Community can off-load old electronics as well as other unwanted household items. They can be dropped off at a collection point in the community's Market Mall.
The campaign is organised by Eros Group, a Dubai-based distributor of several big-name brands of electronic products and household appliances, and Emirates Environmental Group, which has been campaigning on the issue for years.
"These really are buds that are sprouting," said Habiba al Marashi, who founded and chairs the Dubai-based environmental organisation.
"What we see today should be the norm. I would like to see every entity bringing products into the UAE being responsible enough to look at what happens to those products at the end of their life cycle."
Electronic waste contains toxic substances such as beryllium, cadmium and lithium, pollutants that can leak into the ground and contaminate groundwater sources if the unwanted goods are dumped in a local landfill. There are no statistics on how much e-waste is generated in the UAE, or how much of it is sent to landfills, but EEG believes there is cause for concern.
"We have been saying e-waste is a huge problem for the past five years," Mrs al Marashi said.
She encouraged providers to offer more repair services for broken items as a way to minimise waste. Recycling electronic products should also become the norm, she said.
"For some people, these are wonderful raw materials," she said.
In the UAE, mobile phones appear to contribute most to e-waste. Niranjan Gidwani, the deputy chief executive of the Eros Group, said mobile phones were changed on average up to two and a half times a year.
"The UAE has around 4.8 million residents, but you have almost double the number of mobile phone subscribers," Mr Gidwani said.
Any electronics collected in the coming days will be handled by Take My Junk UAE, a charity that collects unwanted items and distributes them to the needy free of charge. Faisal Khan, the organisation's founder, said he hopes to collect and re-distribute as many as three truckloads of old computers, televisions and other unwanted items.
"Our main objective is nothing should end up on the kerb," he said.
"Dubai is a very busy city, it is a very on-the-road life. People do not have the time to gather their unwanted things and wait for buyers," he said. "They just put their stuff outside until the garbage truck takes it."
While some have plenty, he said, others lack the means to buy even simple products.
"If you are making Dh1,000 per month, you cannot really afford to buy anything of quality and use it," he said. "We find labourers who do not have the money to buy a pair of jeans."
Unwanted items that cannot be reused will be handed over to the Green Foundation, a company that exports electronic items to the UK.
In the UAE, Dubai-based EnviroServe can recycle the full range of electronic items, but because of the high transport and logistics costs of serving households the company deals mainly with private companies, focusing on office equipment.
Pass It On runs at the Market Mall in the Green Community until January 1. For larger items, people can call Take My Junk UAE on 050 179 4045.