Being part of the Electronic Industry and more generally speaking of the Industrial Field, we are facing an important environmental issue that is the treatment of our waste: returns, broken items... etc.
What are we doing to prevent this situation to get worst?
First, few information:
Electronic waste or e-waste describes "discarded electrical or electronic devices. E-waste or electronic waste is created when an electronic product is discarded after the end of its useful life. The rapid expansion of technology and the consumption driven society results in the creation of a very large amount of e-waste is every minute in the world.
Note that 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste are disposed worldwide every year. Only 12.5% of e-waste is currently recycled.
Used electronics which are destined for refurbishment, reuse, resale, salvage, recycling through material recovery, or disposal are also considered e-waste."
(c) picture (unsplash): boy holding cardboard box by Hermes Rivera
In fact, some places are used as a giant dumping ground, such as Agbogbloshie (video link): a dump dotted with burning mounds of trash next to Ghana’s capital, Accra. Up to 10,000 workers wade through tons of discarded goods as part of an enormous, informal recycling process, in what has become one of the world’s largest destinations for used electronic goods.
In Ghana, the waste arrives by boat via the Port of Tema, 30 kilometers from the Agbogbloshie dump. Thousands of tons of used electronics - mainly from Western Europe and the US - are delivered in huge containers. "They are often labeled as secondhand consumer products, health experts said, so they are not strictly considered waste. But their impact is noxious all the same."
And what about South Africa?
The South African government has introduced legislation to encourage the development of a waste management system, and a large percentage of items such as plastics, metals and glass are recycled in SA.
“However, there are many types of waste, and in particular e-waste, that cannot simply be mechanically separated, but require more advanced technologies to separate the constituents to a point that the individual components can be reused."
"For some e-waste, the technologies necessary to undertake the recycling do exist elsewhere in the world, but in many cases they are not suitable for implementation in South Africa", said Williams-Wynn, the University of KwaZulu-Natal rare earth recycling technologies researcher.
The e-waste Association of South Africa (EWASA) representative Keith Anderson agreed that e-waste recycling is in its start in South Africa and relatively immature in terms of the emerging enterprises and entrants into the market.
(c) picture (unsplash): high-angle photography of assorted-color sack lot by Radowan Nakif Rehan
He highlighted the need for local benefaction of e-waste fractions to create new enterprises, jobs and growth within this emerging sector in the green economy.
Currently, in South Africa, some existing e-waste practitioners are exporting laptops board fractions to European and other global markets to be paid out a maximum return on investment.
And what about Raz Technology (Pty) Ltd. measures in SA?
Concerned about the future of our e-Waste and within an eco-responsible approach, we are currently working closely with one of the few company working in treating e-waste in South Africa: MEWASTESA. The company is providing e-waste recycling services to the general public and corporate.They are focusing on the administration, setup and collection aspect.
They are rewarding their "recycling hero" (people who start using the app and allow the MEWASTESA to collect their broken devices or accessories) in order to encourage people to recycle their mobile electronic waste.
We are dropping our e-waste monthly, in order to allow them to treat it, recycle and sort it out.
Most of the items collected are sent to e-Compliance. Metals such as copper, steel, gold, silver are extracted.
"We are not on the level of Europe and the USA, said MJ Van Driel, MEWASTESA CEO. Up to 85% of broken smartphones cannot be re-used, recycled or exported. So, legally we have to send it to landfill. In an effort to lower this practice, I've met with companies looking to reuse small components such as a phone's vibration motor, LED flash, magnets etc. Maker Station and I are creating scientific kits for school kids."
Maker Station is a DIY ”Gym for Makers”, you can book space to make almost anything, using tools and facilities.
See pictures below:
Kit for kids, 2019
Safe and legal recycling?
"E-Waste is often recycled in ways which are destructive to the environment", mentioned MJ Van Driel. "This includes burning and the use of poisonous acids to extract a small percentage of valuable material."
MEWASTESA and its partners are fully compliant with the current SA legislation including:
- National Environmental Management Act 107 of 1998
- National Environmental Management Waste Act 59 of 2008
- Second Hand Goods Act 6 of 2006
- Precious Metals Act 2005
- City of Capetown Integrated Waste Management By-law 2009
- POPI Act 4 of 2013
- SA Electronic Waste Alliance - SAEWA (affiliate member)
- Green Cape (member)
- Cape e-waste (partner)
- E-compliance (partner)
- United Nations Ewaste Academy 2018
We are hoping to contribute on the emergence and development of this activity in South Africa.
We are all responsible. We all need to be and feel concerned. Be the change you want to see today.