- Click here to view a copy of the ITU's toolkit for e-waste management in Africa. (20.22 MB)
With a growing information society and increasing disposable incomes, the amount of e-waste is growing, and official collection and recycling rates fail to keep pace.
Globally, only 39% of countries have a national policy, legislation or regulation that covers e-waste; while in Africa, only 13 countries have an e-waste policy, legislation or regulation, which is worrisome as Africa alone generates roughly 2.9-million tonnes of e-waste every year.
Speaking at a recent webinar on fostering e-waste management systems, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) regional director for Africa Andrew Rugege lamented that only 0.9% of e-waste was documented to be collected and properly recycled, while the destination of the rest was unknown and was likely to be contributing to human health and environmental hazards.
It is also estimated that if all the e-waste generated globally was recycled, the total volume of raw materials that could be recovered would be close to $3.2-billion, which Rugege said offered "unprecedented economic opportunities” in not only being able to reduce the number of virgin materials that were used, but also potent job creation.
However, without national laws on the management of e-waste, there was no formal framework to reduce the negative impacts of the e-waste stream on the environment and human health, he stressed.
He noted that national laws provided a framework for enforcement, which was necessary, and in many cases included a framework for extended producer responsibility (EPR), which was a mechanism for financing of the collection and recycling of e-waste.
Taking the dire circumstances into account, the ITU has set ambitious targets to increase global e-waste recycling rates to 30% and to raise the percentage of countries with e-waste legislation to 50% by 2023.
To achieve this, the ITU has, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, released a toolkit to support policy practices for e-waste management, which showcases examples from African countries that highlight progress and makes important recommendations.
The collection and recycling of e-waste also presented an opportunity for regional harmonization or collaboration among governments and economies of scale, as countries needed a vision and e-waste management framework in which to create meaningful and transparent collaboration across the value chains, Rugege noted.
The toolkit was released in April and aims to provide a pragmatic guide for policy makers to formulate and strengthen e-waste management systems based on EPR and provides governments with a guide to setting out the requirements of a system for the management of e-waste.
It considers the need for an all-actors approach and for the fair, inclusive and timely application of the EPR principle, while simultaneously also drawing on the experiences from developing countries and emerging markets, with a focus on emerging e-waste management systems in African countries.