Environmental E-waste Problem

Africa. A framework is being developed to help African countries deal with the rising electronic waste.

E-waste is defined as unwanted electronic goods eg. computers, mobile phones.

E-waste must be recycled or disposed of carefully to prevent health problems and environmental contamination from toxic materials such as lead and mercury which are used in components of electronic devices.

Some African countries have expressed fears that electronics use is on the rise with no equal increase in safe disposal techniques.

A group of organisations began investigations on e-waste in Africa in 2007 and the results showed that the situation varies greatly within countries, and included in the group are GLobal Digital Solidarity Fund, The Swiss Institute for material Science, as well as Hewlett Packard.

Morocco, as an example, produces 13 500 tonnes of e-waste a year from computers alone, as compared to Kenya which produces about 3 000 tonnes.

The research also indicated that the figures reported could double or triple as a result of strong growth in ICTs ( information and communication technologies).

A pilot scheme was started and a self-sustainable e-waste recycling facility was launched in Cape Town, South Africa. The facility was started in 2008 and has so far processed about 60 tonnes of electronic waste, generated an income of $14 000, and created direct employment for 19 people.

The organisations hope that the Cape Town e-waste recycling facility will be used as a model for other African countries.

A series of recommendations put together by the group on dealin with electronic waste has been put together, though the problem is that there is no standardized method to the problem as each country will have to develop a solution relevant to the situation.

The group is working on regional solutions and reported that it would be difficult to work out how long it would take to develop these solutions as there are bits of academic research available but the research has not been compiled.

Phase two of the project will look at involving government and corporate partners in a bid to educate other African countries on the awareness and use of electronic waste management systems, which will eventually reach all of Africa.

Source: SciDev.net


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