UNEP Report Finds Domestic Consumption Forms 85% of E-Waste in Africa
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According to the report, the problem of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) in Africa is exacerbated by an ongoing stream of used equipment from industrialised countries.

The report outlines the risks of e-waste, including hazardous substances released during dismantling and disposal operations, and its opportunities, such as recovering valuable metals in order to grow Africa's economies, as noted by UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

10 February 2012: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal have released a report analyzing current recycling practices and socio-economic characteristics of the e-waste sector in West Africa. The report is based on the findings of national e-waste assessments carried out in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria, from 2009-2011.

According to the report, titled “Where are WEEE in Africa? Findings from the Basel Convention E-waste Africa Programme,” domestic consumption makes up 85 percent of waste electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE) produced in the region, and the problem is exacerbated by an ongoing stream of used equipment from industrialised countries. The report says that in the five countries assessed, between 650,000 and 1,000,000 tons of domestic e-waste are generated annually.

The report outlines the risks and opportunities of e-waste, noting that it contains hazardous substances, including heavy metals mercury and lead, and endocrine-disrupting substances, such as brominated flame retardants, that can be released during dismantling and disposal operations. E-waste also contains materials of strategic value including indium and palladium, and precious metals such as gold, copper and silver, which can be recovered and recycled. The report documents the economic and environmental potential of building a resource recovery and waste management system for e-waste.

In response to the report, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner underscored the need to “grow Africa’s economies, generate decent employment and safeguard the environment by supporting sustainable e-waste management and recovering the valuable metals and other resources locked inside products that end up as e-waste.” He highlighted, in the lead up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), the importance of the report in outlining how measures such as improved collection strategies and establishing more formal recycling structures, can “limit environmental damage and provide economic opportunities.” [UNEP Press Release] [Publication: Where are WEEE in Africa?]

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