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Partnerships key to enabling e-waste recycling in Africa

Partnerships between companies, communities, government and nongovernmental organisations are necessary to enable the efficient recycling of electronic waste (e-waste) throughout Africa, says Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa head Fredrik Jejdling.

Ericsson has piloted a partnership model for e-waste collection in Benin with African cellular major MTN, which resulted in the establishment of a collection depot with a 20-foot container. Ericsson has a producer responsibility under the European Union Waste of Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (EU WEEE Directive) to ensure that 75% of materials be recovered from all e-waste collected. “Though the EU WEEE Directive stipulates 75%, Ericsson has an internal target of ensuring 95% of useable materials are recovered from e-waste collected.

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This initiative to encourage proper recycling is part of our global Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility strategy. Our equipment is present in cellular towers, on rooftops, in industries and in people’s hands across the continent. “However, Africa is vast and markets widely spaced, requiring partnerships to enable efficient collection of e-waste. The problem is lower volumes across a larger geography than is the case in, for example, Europe,” Jejdling explains.

The partnership with MTN in Benin allows for e-waste to be transported, using routine field services, to the collection container in the city centre of Porto Novo from where it can be efficiently transported for processing. The e-waste is sent to a South African processing plant, after which it is shipped to Ericsson’s Europe-based recycler. At the recycler, all the recoverable metals and minerals, and hazardous substances or minerals are removed. The metals and minerals are sold on the exchange market, while the hazardous materials treated. Ericsson is assessing how it can broaden this model of e-waste recycling to other parts of Africa, specifically through partnerships. “We aim to extend our partnership with MTN in the other countries in which they operate, and we might also partner with other operators in this region to increase the scale of the initiative. We would love to bring the concept to South Africa,” he adds.

However, Jejdling says all these initiatives depend on local capacity, including willing partners, and the ability to meet best practice health and safety standards with regard to e-waste handling. Ericsson encourages other service providers and organisations, as well as companies that operate supply chains that can be used to transport consumer goods e-waste to the collection site to join the initiative.

Source: Engineering News

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