E-Waste Threat Tackled Head-On

Article Type: Feature          Published: 12-2013         Views: 2167   



The challenge of e-waste disposal is a massive one. Dell is working with the East Africa Compliant Recycling to create a better system .

Dell leaders have joined members of the E-Waste Solutions Alliance for Africa in Nairobi to mark the opening of East Africa Compliant Recycling - the region's first large-scale e-waste recycling facility - and the creation of a new e-waste business to be supported by a regulatory model, tailored for developing countries.

The new model was developed by Kenyan officials and representatives from non-governmental organisations, and the IT and e-recycling industries. The hub was designed by industry, in collaboration with policymakers.

Developing regulations from Kenya's National Environment Management Authority will help generate capacity for the new e-waste hub by requiring electronics companies to meet certain thresholds for e-waste collection and treatment.

Underscoring the regulatory framework is the recognition that, particularly in developing countries, e-waste has monetary value. That value, combined with the lack of a sustainable e-waste recycling infrastructure in East Africa, likely would have abated the effectiveness of common regulatory approaches to funding and managing e-waste collection and recycling, such as import fees. Those means also could make computing less affordable for Kenyan citizens, and public and private sector organisations. Other African nations have monitored the development of new regulatory model, with a view to replicating the approach.

At the heart of the business model are shipping container-housed collection points located throughout Kenya. Each collection point functions as its own independent small businesses, purchasing e-waste from newly trained individual collectors. To date, four collection points have been established - two funded by Dell - with at least forty more planned.

Once a shipping container is filled to capacity, its contents are resold to the main hub where the e-waste will be sustainably processed into material fractions and sold back to the technology industry. Each stage of the model is designed to be profitable for participants, from individual collector to collection point to hub.

In addition to protecting the environment, the model is aimed at creating thousands of green jobs at the facility and across supporting logistics and collection networks, in part by converting existing informal-sector e-waste 'pickers' into trained and legitimately compensated e-waste collectors. Dell and others have invested in training programmes to educate workers on the safe collection and recycling of e-waste.

A separate Dell-sponsored project launched last month already has micro financed and created jobs for 27 women from Nairobi's Mukuru informal settlement, known as the Mukuru slums. Following the satisfactory completion of a training course, women use funds made available through mobile technology to purchase and resell waste. In its first two weeks, women participating in the Dell-Mukuru collected 1.5 containers of e-waste, which was resold to the new recycling hub. Prior to the programme, women from Mukuru often used unsafe and unhealthy means to collect and resell e-waste to the informal market.

Why Dell? Because it has established itself as a global leader in the collection and recycling of e-waste. It sees e-waste is a global issue and wants to impact the problem at its source, instead of simply passing the issue on to someone else. So, in 2009, it became the first in its industry to ban the export of nonworking electronics and e-waste to developing countries.

"The unregulated disposal of e-waste can negatively impact the environment, health and safety of regions like China, India and Africa," it points out. "In FY13, Dell completed our goal of collecting 1 billion pounds of e-waste." As part of its '2020 Legacy for Good Plan', the company recently set goals to recover 2 billion pounds of electronics and reuse more than 50 million pounds of recycled-content plastics in its products by 2020. Integral to both goals is the ability to access e-waste in developing countries, using methods that do not put people or the environment at risk.

Says Jean Cox-Kearns, director of compliance, Dell Takeback: "It is so exciting to see this sustainable model be implemented on the ground in Nairobi, creating green jobs and implementing a solution that deals with e-waste being generated both in Kenya and the greater East African Region, and providing environmentally sound management of e-waste collected. '

The Basel Convention greatly reduces the international transfer of waste, including e-waste. Dell has expanded and surpassed the convention's guidelines to define e-waste as all non-working parts or devices, regardless of materials, and require that all equipment be tested and certified before being exported. The policy also states that:

• All exports and imports of electronic waste handled by Dell and its authorised environmental partners will comply with existing international waste trade agreements and legal requirements
• Dell does not permit electronic waste to be exported from developed (members countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development [OECD] or the European Union [EU]) to developing (non-OECD/EU) countries, either directly or through intermediaries
• No prison or child labour will be used in the disposal of electronic waste
• Every reasonable effort will be made to control all electronic wastes and prevent it from entering landfills or incinerators.

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