E-Waste Comes to Karbala: Old Phones and Computers Threaten Public Health
In the relatively prosperous city of Karbala, locals are used to buying cheap mobile phones, then simply throwing them out when they break down. They also discard used computers, televisions and other electronic equipment in the same way. But, as local doctors warn, the components of this electronic waste can also be toxic and dangerous to human health.
In Karbala, locals quite commonly buy two or three cheap mobile phones at a time and after using them for a couple of months they simply replace them.
And people here have different reasons for getting a new mobile phone. Ahmad Badr, 27, says he is often tempted by new models because of the way they look or the new technology. “Every time I see a new model, I feel like selling my old phone or maybe giving it to my younger brothers,” says Badr, who admits to having gone through 21 mobile phones over recent years.
Even Hamid Rhaman, who is in his 60s, says he’s had nine mobile phones since they became available in Karbala. “I replaced most of them because of technical issues but in some cases, I did get a new one simply because I wanted a better model,” he explains.
These examples fit with what mobile phone store owners see regularly: younger people replace their phones more often and it often has much to do with following trends. And women replace their phones more often than men. Those least likely to shop for a new phone regularly are older men.
But what happens to all the old phones? “We can’t really do anything with the old or damaged phones,” says Rida Bahr, the owner of a phone repair store in Karbala. “Sometimes repair shops like mine keep the old phones for a while. But then we run out of space and we basically just have to throw them in the garbage along with other household rubbish.”