A new UN study on e-waste in West Africa says domestic consumption of electronics and electrical items contributes to the rising tide of electronics waste in the sub-region.
According to the study titled Where are WEEE in Africa?, up to 85 percent of the e-waste produced in West Africa comes from domestic consumption, however it adds that, “The e-waste problem in West Africa is further exacerbated by an ongoing stream of used equipment from industrialised countries, significant volumes of which prove unsuitable for re-use and contribute further to the amount of e-waste generated locally.”
This report is only confirming with data what has been known since the e-waste menace in the sub-region started gaining attention both locally and internationally. West African countries including Ghana, have no policies or laws on how to manage obsolete electronics and electrical items. And citizens of these countries have no idea what to do with or where to take their electronics or electrical items when they reach their end of life.
An assessment report released in March 2011 on the e-waste situation in Ghana commenting on the laws governing e-waste, said “there are a number of laws and regulations that have some relevance to the control and management of hazardous wastes, including e-waste, “but they do not address the dangers posed to humans and the environment from such wastes.”
Ghana also has unrestricted and unregulated import regime for second hand electronics and electrical items, the report established.
The report also established 171,000 tons of e-waste was found in Ghana.
The new UN report which was prepared by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and some partners covered five countries; Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana and it says between 650,000 and 1,000,000 tonnes of domestic e-waste are generated each year, suggesting that it is necessary for these to be managed to protect human health and the environment in the region.
E-waste contains heavy metal chemicals such as lead, cadmium, barium, mercury and arsenic which are dangerous both to humans and the environment.
The report also sheds light on current recycling practices and on socio-economic characteristics of the e-waste sector in West Africa and provides the quantitative data on the use, import and disposal of electronic and electrical equipment in the region.
Additionally, the report draws on the findings of national e-waste assessments carried out in the five countries from 2009 to 2011.
Commenting on the report, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary General Achim Steiner, said, “Effective management of the growing amount of e-waste generated in Africa and other parts of the world is an important part of the transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy.”
The report can be downloaded here.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi