World's 41-ton e-waste set to rise - Study

APA-Banjul (The Gambia)

Each year, the world's electronics industry generates up to 41 million tons of e-waste, but as the figure of consumers rises, and the durability of devices shrinks in response to the demand for the newest and best, that number could rise to 50 million tons in few years, specialized studies warn.

"The UN Environment Program (UNEP) research said that, the West African sub-region has been a major receiver of these e-wastes, even though some Asian countries are also recipients of millions of tons of such toxic materials, sometimes as part of the formal trade free agreements with western nations.” the report seen by APA on Tuesday explains.

Aje Seun, a laptop technician from Nigeria who started his workshop where he repairs laptops that sustained some technical problems in the Gambian town of Serekunda since 2013, says business is not doing well due to the frequent development of the latest gadgets. 

“Now the work is just from hand to mouth. However, we make our living from it, pay our rents and overhead bills” he points out.

He adds that, they usually buy the goods from containers and other clients, fix the ones with problems and resell them.

According to Musa Gaye, a mobile phone technician for ten years, a lot of electronic gadgets are imported into The Gambia every year although he is unable to qualify it. 

“The availability of latest phones and products has really affected our business because people prefer latest phones than second-hand gadgets but I was able to find and sustain my wife from this skills” he adds jokingly.

Old computers and mobile phones, electric cables, televisions, coffee machines, fridges, old analogue radios are piled up in landfills across the world, UNEP explains.

According to the research, e-waste often contains hazardous materials, which pose health hazards to humans and the environment, especially in developing countries like The Gambia where there are no reliable system to dispose of them.

The Global Partnership on Waste Management said that, e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste crisis in developed as well as in developing countries in the 21st century which poses greater challenges to national and local governments across the world.

“Due to the fact that the life span of computers has dropped in developed countries from six years in 1997 to just two years in 2005, and mobile phones have a lifespan of even less than two years, the amount of generated e-waste per year grows rapidly.” it adds.

"This has a major impact on developing countries as loopholes in the current (European Commission) Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directives allow the export of e-waste from developed to developing countries (70 per cent of the collected WEEE ends up in unreported and largely unknown destinations)." experts laments.

However, individuals and companies both in developed and developing countries are beginning to come up with ways and means of recycling these noxious e-waste materials into various products to make them useful all over again.

According to the Global Partnership on Waste Management, inappropriate methods like open burning, which are often used by the informal sector in developing countries to recover valuable materials, have heavy impacts on human health and the environment.

Research by the International Resource Panel (IRP) says that, recycling rates have been consistently inadequate considering that one-third of some 60 metals studied have an end-of-life recycling rate above 50 per cent and 34 elements are below one per cent recycling. 

This presents a real opportunity to reduce environmental degradation, energy and water use, and cut down on health impacts by doing it right.

"We need to address the full circle, establishing recycling systems and formalizing and subsidizing the informal handling systems," says Nellemann, who authored UNEP's report. 

"We also need to address the significant involvement of organized crime in waste handling." the author adds.


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