30 May 2014. By Ben Messenger . Managing Editor
E-Waste Conference in Kenya Told of Health Hazards & Recycling Opportunities
The National E-Waste Conference and Exhibition held in Nairobi has heard that the findings of a UNEP study of 300 schoolchildren near Dandora, which found that about 50% had respiratory problems, and 30% had blood abnormalities signalling heavy-metal poisoning
Focusing on the potential economic and environmental benefits of the responsible management of e-waste, stakeholders discussed ways to reduce the hazards arising from the disposal of electronic equipment in Kenya.
Electronic waste is now Kenya’s fastest growing waste component. UNEP estimates that over 17,000 tonnes of electronic waste is generated in Kenya annually. This is equivalent to 130 million mobile phones.
The high rate of e-waste accumulation in Kenya was said to be caused by short product life-cycles, the increasing affordability of electronics, and donations of used electronics from other countries.
The theme of the national e-waste conference, organised by the Kenya Industrial Research and Development Institute (KIRDI) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was ‘Our E-waste, Our Collective Responsibility’.
The delegates heard that e-waste is composed of a complex mix of plastics and chemicals, including heavy metals and radioactive elements, which, when not properly handled, can be harmful to human health and the environment.
Dandora, where the study of the 300 school children tool place, is home to an unrestricted dumping ground 30 acres just 8 kilometres from the city of Nairobi.
It is the destination for some 2000 tonnes of newly arrived waste per day, which the conference heard includes heavy metals such as lead and mercury often found in electronic waste that makes its way into the soil and contaminates the air.
It was also highlighted that globally, the World Health Organisation places deaths of children under five from environmentally related illnesses worldwide at 4.7 million a year.
The audience also heard that there are opportunities to be had from e-waste.
“Sustainable management of e-waste can combat poverty and generate green jobs through recycling, collection and processing of e-waste, and safeguard the environment and human health from the hazards posed by rising levels of waste electronics,” said the UN under-secretary-general and executive director of UNEP, Achim Steiner.
“Smart public policies, creative financial incentives and technology transfer can turn e-waste from a challenge into an important resource for sustainable development,” he continued.
Delegates were also told that finding ways to improve e-waste management has become a priority for the Kenyan government.
The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) of Kenya has already developed draft E-Waste Management Regulations, which, when gazetted, are expected to provide an appropriate legal and institutional framework and mechanisms for the handling, collection, transportation, recycling and safe disposal of e-waste.
‘We are confident that this conference will not only play its part in raising awareness about the threats posed by e-waste but also highlight the huge economic opportunities it represents in terms of recycling,’ said Dr. Faridah Were, Senior Research Scientist at KIRDI.
Highlights of the event include the show-casing of best available e-waste technologies and practices, and strategies to reduce e-waste and increase re-use and recycling of electronics.
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African E-Waste ‘Call to Action’ on Regulation & Standards
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African WEEE Report by the UN Environment Programme
A new report into current recycling practices and socio-economic characteristics of the e-waste sector in West Africa has been published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).