05 August, 2008

E-Waste Management In Kenya

The influx of cheap imported refurbished or otherwise second hand computers,cell phones,
printers,solar panels etc is slowly but surely contributing to what can be termed "a silent epidemic"that will have tremendous adverse effect on the well being of many Kenyans and environmental degradation

Electronic Waste Management has become a subject of importance due to the increase in the number of obsolete electronic devices; these obsolete devices need to be disposed and therefore form the bulk of electronic waste. Due to technological advancement, new and better electronic devices are being produced to replace the old technology,products are rapidly outfaced(have you changed your phone ,laptop, computer of Late? then you know what i mean) this results to an increased amount of electronic waste being produced; this electronic waste needs to be properly disposed to reduce environmental and health impacts on the society.

Electronic waste management systems have not fully evolved in developing countries which makes electronic waste management a problem in these countries. In Kenya, there is still much to be done to improve electronic waste management. Policy makers, stakeholders and agencies concerned with environmental protection should co-operate and come up with effective electronic waste management systems. Kenya receives used electronic equipment like computers from foreign countries some of which are outdated and irreparable; these are ‘donated’ to schools or other public institutions, these soon become useless because we are in the wake of new technological advancement.
There should be measures that the government puts in place to ensure that only computers and other electronic equipment that are up-to-date and in good condition are imported
We should also learn that anything that is cheap has a greater price in the end; when these computers become redundant we will use a lot of money in safely disposing it or pay a much higher price of ruining our health and environment due to improper electronic waste disposal.

Are we aware that electronic waste is a problem if not properly disposed? Ironically when your mobile phone goes dead the current trend is to give it to your child as a toy and he ends up putting it to the mouth oblivious of the poisonous and cancerous elements such as lead in the phone.Five years down the line we wonder why cancer has become so prevalent or where or why our child got cancer.Electronic waste needs proper disposal mechanisms and should be handled by trained personnel due to its hazardous nature.I was pleasantly surprised in a news item on NTV recently that showed a local startup company that is recycling electronic waste efficiently and disposing off recyclable material .That is good but just a drop in the ocean.In the developed Countries licensing of such organizations is strict and there are strict policy frameworks and guidelines to be followed for disposing of hazardous waste.In some instances it is much more expensive to dispose of electronic waste people opt to dispose of the same clandestinely.

The question posed in the previous paragraph needs to be answered before any substantial measures can be formulated to ensure proper e-waste management. Only when we are aware of the problems that can arise when we improperly dispose of our computers and other electronic equipment, then we can effectively implement any program to manage electronic waste. Review of programs that have been successfully implemented in other countries can be helpful in coming up with a suitable program for electronic waste management in Kenya. In Kenya institutions like hospitals produce the bulk of electronic waste which is mostly contagious and extra care needs to be taken when disposing them. The government and higher institutions should promote research which will improve electronic waste management in Kenya.

The unsightly Dandora dump site in Nairobi is a testimony that so far Kenya has not yet been able to implement a proper e-waste management system. The local authority through the Nairobi City Council should monitor what kind of waste is dumped in the dump site. National Environment Management Authority which should ensure various institutions carries out waste management in line with the stipulated EMCA Act(the act is shallow and has no section dedicated to e-waste manaement unlike similar satutory instruments in oother developed countries-So far i think only South Africa in this continent has put up a proper e-waste management statutory framework,the rest of us are in honeymoon waiting for this issue to explode in our face). This Authority is somewhat toothless it should be removed from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and be a completely autonomous body with relevant satutory power.The only problem is corruption in Kenya.

(courtesy of Pamela Mbalo)

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