Global concern about the mountains of e-waste generated every year has been rising for quite some time – and with good reason.
Global concern about the mountains of e-waste generated every year has been rising for quite some time – and with good reason: In 2014, the United Nations estimated that humans produced 41.8 million metric tons of electronic waste. That’s 92 billion pounds – and even though IT products made up just 7 percent of that waste, that still represents almost 6.5 billion pounds of waste our industry generated in a single year.
There are no easy solutions to the many enmeshed challenges of e-waste, but by designing for reuse, repair, refurbishing and recycling, we can make real progress.
For all the concern about user experience in design, there is one aspect of product design that gets ignored entirely too often by others – one that has major impacts on the business, the environment, and people around the world: end-of-life design.
Designing for a second life requires a deep understanding of the downstream processes for handling electronics. One way to enable this is to open up dialogue between designers and recyclers. These experiences and conversations with recyclers get the designers thinking about beautiful products that are also optimized for repair, refurbishment, and recycling.
Big and small changes can make refurbishing and recycling significantly easier. For instance, on a recent field trip our engineers learned that having laptop cases open from the top instead of the bottom greatly extends the time it takes to dismantle. Using snap fits vs. glues and adhesives help minimize processing time. And designing instruction manuals with icons, pictures, and videos rather than text allows recyclers to work and repair at the same time instead of pausing to read detailed instructions.
For Man Tak Ho, one of Dell’s Mechanical Senior Engineers, the field trips really help extend the life of the product: “Not only do we need to be making it easy to disassemble, but it needs to be easy to repair.”
Modular thinking is another way to address e-waste. One example that we’ve employed with our commercial notebooks is creating a single access door for all major components, which makes it easier for users to repair by themselves versus requiring a user guide and trained technician.
Fairphone, a Dutch cell phone maker, does a great job of incorporating modular thinking into their design while also addressing human rights challenges associated with extracting raw materials.
Their latest model, the Fairphone 2, is “a smartphone dedicated to creating positive social change.” The company sources fair-trade metals and works to improve mining supply chains in Africa and elsewhere. The phone’s innovative modular design makes upgrading and repairing a simple plug-and-play operation.
The short film below, by the winner of Dell’s Legacy of Good Short Film Contest, dives into Fairphone’s approach and process.
Your trash is our treasure
Turns out “trash” can be a workable and cost effective material for designers. We’re seeing it in the growth of the circular economy, with innovative uses of waste products being turned into the building blocks of exciting projects and products. Adidas, for example, just made a slick shoe out of ocean plastic – a material we’re exploring for use in our packaging.
This idea of turning trash into treasure holds true for electronics design as well. Some of us in the industry are using recycled plastics for our products. At Dell, we are turning the plastic from e-waste into new parts for OptiPlex all-in-ones, desktops and monitors. We are also using other industries’ excess carbon fiber in select Latitude, and Alienware laptops.
Critical to all of this is strong recycling infrastructure. If Dell did not have recycling operations in 83 countries and territories, “closing the loop” would become more challenging.
We owe it to our customers, our communities and our planet to continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with design. It’s not always just about the beauty on the outside, but the hidden beauty: the resources we leave out, what we recycle, and how we extend the workable life for the next person to enjoy.
Ed Boyd is Dell’s Senior Vice President of Experience Design across commercial, consumer and enterprise businesses.
When the new Electronic Waste Regulations are finally gazetted, it will be mandatory for producers and importers of electronic goods to state clearly how and where the products will be treated upon the end of their life. Vicky Onderi, a former environmental officer in charge of e-waste at Nema tells People Daily’s JAMES MOMANYI how Kenya became a pioneer in regulation of e-waste management and her role in the significant move
Q: Who is Vicky Onderi and what do Kenyans need to know about electronic waste?
A: I was born and brought up in Kisii county before I moved to Nairobi for post-secondary studies and later work. I have a master’s degree in environmental management from the University of Nairobi and a postgraduate diploma in environmental management for developing and emerging economies from Dresden University in Germany.
I worked for the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) as an environment officer in charge of e-learning and waste management at a time when the continent started to engage on how to manage e-waste.
Although I resigned from Nema in 2013, I have been part of the team that has championed the formulation of the e-waste regulations, which were discussed and passed in Parliament last week. Currently, I am a director at East Africa Compliance Recycling Company, a consultancy firm on e-waste management.
On the second question, electronic waste comprises any electronic product whose life (usage)has come to end and needs to be disposed of. According to United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep), Kenya generates annually over 11,400 tonnes of e-waste from refrigerators, 2,800 tonnes from TVs, 2,500 tonnes of e-waste from computers, 500 tonnes from printers and 150 tonnes from mobile phones, among other products. This is a lot of e-waste, which if not properly treated can be harmful to the environment and people.
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Q: How did you get involved with the e-waste management or was was it your line of study?
A: Prior to 2010, Kenya, and in general Africa, didn’t have e-waste guidelines, policy and regulations. In 2010, environment ministries from across the continent met and passed a resolution that called for the mainstreaming of technology-supported learning in the environment sector.
I was tasked to develop drafts on e-waste guidelines together with my colleagues at the department. We formed four working groups to focus on capacity building, infrastructure and connectivity, monitoring and evaluation and digital content for e-waste management.
The infrastructure and connectivity working group developed a draft on the e-waste policy, regulations and guidelines. But we realised that without a clear roadmap on implementation, the guidelines will be meaningless. Furthermore, without the legal framework, the guidelines would not serve any purpose.
This forced us to organise a Pan-African conference in March 2012 to discuss the issues from a continental perspective and come up with a common solution for all African countries.
It’s worth noting that Kenya is the only country in Africa that has, so far, formulated the e-waste regulations while others such as South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia and others it is still work in progress.
Q: Who have been the main actors in Kenya in the formulation of structures and systems of the e-waste framework?
A: There have been many actors since the journey started in 2010. Besides Nema, the government through the Office of the Presidency in the current and the previous regime has played a great role.
Various ministries such the Environment, Education, Industrialisation, Communication together as well as agencies such as KRA, Kebs and Parliament have played a huge role, especially in putting in place e-waste regulations.
Allow me to point out the great role the directors of Nema and the Environment Cabinet secretary Judi Wakhungu have played.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto have also supported the work done by various actors, with government taking e-waste management as one of its flagship projects.
In Parliament, the Speaker Justin Muturi has been the main driving force together with Committee on Environment chaired by Amina Abdallah and the Committee on Delegated Legislation led by Baringo North MP William Cheptumo.
The trio played a key role in organising several seminars where Kenyan MPs and their East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) counterparts were upraised on e-waste. This made it possible for the MPs to debate and pass the Electronic Waste Regulations now awaiting gazettement.
Apart from Kenyan institutions, Unep and the European Union have played a major role in providing resources and partnerships that have made the journey possible.
African Union has also been of great support, especially in making e-waste a continental agenda that needs common solution. Currently, we are developing a tool kit so that the regulations can be adopted by all African countries.
Q: What are some of the major provisions in the regulations that will impact on the society directly?
A: One of the provisions is that henceforth, no company will manufacture or import any electronics without stating where its e-waste will be treated after end of their life.
They must sign an MoU with the treatment facility before the product is allowed into the country. That is why KRA and Kebs have been part of the teams developing the regulations, together with importers and producers.
Q: What are some of the impacts of electronic waste to human beings and environment?
A: Electronic waste releases to the environment toxic chemicals such as lead, barium, mercury and other harmful components into environment, which endanger lives of both the public and the workers involved in the recycling process.
E-waste, when burnt, causes air pollution through release of toxic emissions, some of which are known carcinogens. Poor disposal blocks water channels, contaminates land and compromises scenic beauty.
Recycling makes business sense because end of electronic equipment contain valuable resources and precious metals such as gold, silver, copper, steel, aluminium, and plastics.
But more importantly, with the kind of system the stakeholders and the government are currently trying to put in place, the e-waste management sector is going to be one of the biggest creators of employment because there are going to be many people involved in collection, recycling or treatment and disposal.
My e-waste treatment company is already in talks with the governors to have collection points in all counties. Women and youth groups will be involved in the programme and, in return, earn a decent living.
Q: A part from e-waste management benefits, what are other attendant gains Kenyans will derive from management structures put in place?
A: Foremost, Kenya is going to be the focal point of e-waste management in Africa being the pacesetter. Other countries will learn from us and this will involve knowledge and skills transfer.
Since we have also established treatment facilities, most countries, especially in the Comesa region may prefer to bring their waste here for treatment the same way most European countries take theirs to Belgium, which has the biggest treatment facility in Europe.
Secondly, almost all public universities in Kenya have signed an MoU with UK’s Northampton University to partner in the training on e-waste management.
This means we are also going to be pacesetters in the academia and research in the field of e-waste management in the continent. The spill-overs will be massive.
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Only 3.3% of SA’s urban population regularly recycles, choosing instead to dump everything and leave it to the bin pickers, writes Georgina Crouth.
Only 3.3 percent of South Africa’s urban population regularly recycles, choosing instead to dump everything in a general bin and leaving it to the bin pickers
In our consumerist, throw-away society, we buy products, use them and discard them without giving it a second thought until the bin pickers arrive on garbage collection day. We complain about litter and pollution in our cities, but don’t give limited landfill space a second thought.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa generated 108 million tons of waste in 2011, with 98 million tons of that going to landfills. A study by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) found we generated 19 million tons of municipal waste, of which a quarter included glass, paper, tins and plastic. Much of the country’s current recycling activity is focused on paper and packaging waste (paper, plastic, glass, tins), and we’re doing a pretty good job currently with that, recycling around 52 percent.
Yet this is a relatively small component of the recyclable waste streams. A large proportion (about 30 to 40 percent) is organic waste and building rubble – both problematic waste streams in terms of illegal dumping but with potential for recycling, yet we don’t currently do enough with these.
Gauteng contributes 45 percent of the municipal waste and they’re filling up quickly. Only a few of the province’s landfills will still be around in 10 years. Cape Town, which contributes 70 percent of the municipal waste in the Western Cape, is also running out of landfill space.
Pikitup chief executive Amanda Nair was recently quoted as saying it costs R1 billion to build a new landfill, which takes into account engineering, lining, drainage and road networks.
As much as 65 percent of the general waste that we generate could be recycled, yet we only currently recycle about 10 percent of our waste (as at 2011). This despite the fact that recycling not only saves landfill space, but can also reduce environmental impacts caused by waste, such as reducing carbon emissions. Recycling also creates jobs.
As Wilma Strydom, a researcher at the CSIR, explained in a 2010 study about post-consumer recycling behaviour in South Africa: “It is alarming that two-thirds of the more than 2 000 urban South African households surveyed do not know where to dispose of their household recyclables.
“Furthermore, the majority of the participants in the study said that they do not know how nor what to recycle.”
This survey found more than 73 percent of people living in urban areas do not recycle at all. About 27 percent of urban South Africans recycle a little and only 3.3 percent sort their recyclables from their household waste and recycle it on a frequent basis.
While the CSIR is currently finalising last year’s “recycling behaviour” survey to gauge whether household recycling has improved over the past five years, the 2010 survey highlighted poor attitudes towards recycling. Some of the reasons given by South Africans as to why they don’t recycle include a lack of space and time, it’s a dirty job, they don’t know what can be recycled, and recycling facilities are often inconvenient.
One positive initiative is from the glass industry body, The Glass Recycling Company, a private sector initiative that works with the Department of Environmental Affairs. Glass recycling rates have increased dramatically since 2005 due to the work of the initiative. Their statistics show glass recycling stood at 18 percent in 2005, rising to 40.9 percent in 2014 (latest stats only out in May). Today, all new glass produced in South Africa consists of at least 40 percent recycled content.
Their success is attributed to their public awareness campaigns, especially on radio, their installation of glass banks in suburbs to make recycling convenient, and assistance they offer to recycling entrepreneurs. Their contribution to glass collection infrastructure has been vital, providing collectors with large volume bags, gloves, goggles and scales as well as drop-off facilities where they can sell the glass.
Another hugely successful industry initiative is the plastics body Petco – it has done even better than glass recycling, seeing an increase from 16 percent in 2005 to 49 percent in 2014.
The CSIR’s 2010 survey results indicate people are more likely to recycle and continue to do so if it is convenient.
“The results show that a two-bag system – simply separating dry waste from wet waste like food scraps – combined with a regular kerbside collection service, would create the best opportunity to mobilise South Africans to start recycling,” Strydom said.
With landfill space running out, the solution is obvious: people need to reduce the amount of waste they produce and start recycling.
Professor Linda Godfrey, principal scientist in the CSIR’s pollution and waste department, said while household recycling rates were low, the country doesn’t fare badly by global standards when it comes to the recycling of paper and packaging waste.
But mindsets need to be changed because it’s generally not the consumer contributing towards this recycling: we rely on others to do this work. “Our very active informal sector recovers recyclables by sorting through bins at the kerbside, or at landfill. An estimated 80.9 percent of the packaging waste that we currently recycle is collected by the informal sector.”
The South African Waste Pickers’ Association estimates there are about 60 000 waste pickers in the country who are making a living from recycling while also providing this service.
“Improved consumer awareness would benefit South Africa, both in terms of reducing littering, which is a major problem and requires that municipalities spend a considerable percentage of their budgets clearing up litter and illegal dumping, but also by increasing household recycling, thereby supporting secondary resources economy, including job creation,” Godfrey says.
It starts with individuals: people must stop littering and dumping, recycle as much as they can in the home and think about what they’re buying.
Godfrey concludes: “There is an opportunity to educate consumers on ‘what’ they buy, in an attempt to drive sustainability and the circular economy agenda, and to reduce consumption. It’s about making smarter choices when buying products, (basing our) choices not only on price, but on issues such as packing type, and quantity. It’s about creating environmentally conscious consumers who understand the impact of their decisions.”
Wise up. Here’s how
Metals: beverage cans, food tins, metal lids, aluminium foil, paint, sheet metal, metal toys, oil and aerosol cans.
Glass: all glass except drinking glasses and light bulbs (some retailers have special bins for light bulbs and batteries, which should not go into general waste).
Paper: except for laminated/plasticised or waxy paper. Most plastics, including cling film (check for a recycling logo).
These cannot be recycled: pyrex, tableware (unless you put them to creative use in mosaics), ordinary batteries, light bulbs, medicines, crystal, spectacles, windowpane glass, windshields and mirrors.
Separate at home: recyclables must be separated from general waste.
Get everyone involved as it teaches children to be conscious about consumption and to care for the environment.
Use bins, bags or other containers to separate the following: glass, plastic, cans and metal, paper and general waste (not for recycling).
If you have a compost heap, use it for vegetable peels, table scraps, egg shells and suitable organic material.
Do not compost meat, bones or fish scraps (they will attract pests), weeds or diseased plants.
Pet manure, banana peels and orange rinds are unsuitable for composting.
What to do: separate your rubbish into special bins or bags and either leave them on the pavement or take them to collection points or municipal drop-off sites or buy-back centres.
You can also organise a collection service to pick up your waste from your home or office.
E-Waste: electronic waste is a growing problem and the goods should never be thrown into general waste. Most municipal sites have e-waste facilities.
In Cape Town, Clearer Conscience collects in the City Bowl, Atlantic seaboard and southern suburbs.
You can have your recyclables collected once a month or twice a week.
They also take clothes, plants, e-waste and green waste by prior arrangement.
Recycle 1st is a new business collecting recyclables from homes and businesses in Cape Town’s northern suburbs. Collections are twice a month.
“If it has a plug or runs on batteries and it is broken – it’s e-waste”. This phrase found on the Transworld Cargo website succinctly defines electronic waste.
We can’t take for granted the knowledge families have on recycling e-waste. With households storing old computers, fridges, television sets and even damaged mobile technology, some are unaware of what to do to with them.
Instead of hoarding such waste or simply dumping it in any landfill, you and your family can use safe methods to deal with e-waste correctly.
With the growing use of household digital appliances, “e-waste has become the fastest growing waste in the world, adding up to 50 million tons of e-waste worldwide per annum,” according to Transworld Cargo, the leading e-cycling partner in the country.
Their goal is to provide the expertise and infrastructure necessary for recycling e-waste.
“People are adamant about recycling, their interest keeps growing,” Transworld Cargo warehouse manager Armando Passano said.
Don’t know what to do with all your e-waste?
Passano suggested that the public drop it off at their Windhoek warehouse in Southern Industrial.
This will make it easier for them to dismantle and sort through the waste, and doesn’t limit customers to the one cubic metre requirement for residential and company pick-ups made by Transworld.
In Windhoek exclusively, Transworld Cargo has various drop-off sites where locals can dispose of their electronic items in the containers provided. Do keep in mind that they do not accept batteries and fluorescent bulbs. Those can be dumped as hazardous waste at the Kupferberg landfill site.
Transworld Cargo (5 von Braun Street, Southern Industrial Area) – Monday to Friday from 08h00 to 17h00
Delta School (corner of Reverend Michael Scott and Dr. A.B. May Street, near Ausspannplatz) – Tuesdays and Thursdays from 07h00 to 09h00
St Paul’s College (393 Sam Nujoma Drive) – Monday to Friday from 08h00 to 16h00
DHPS (11-15 Church Street) – Mondays from 06h45 to 16h00 and Tuesdays to Fridays from 06h45 to 13h30
Windhoek International School (Scheppmann Street, Pioneers Park, Extension 1)
averda Dubai has signed a Partnership Memorandum with Dubai Municipality to provide an electronic waste collection service in the Emirate of Dubai. This initiative that stems from the Dubai Municipality ‘s commitment to promote integrated and effective sustainable waste management practices and thereby enhance the environmental and health standards of the Emirate of Dubai, falls under averda Group’s commitment to protect the environment, minimize the quantity of waste that cannot be reused or recycled and to ensure that our partners are provided with the latest technological developments in the field of waste management.
averda Dubai has provided the Municipality of Dubai with smart e-waste bins during 2014 – 2015, the bins being equipped with sensors that interact live, online, with averda Dubai Operations Department, via GPRS. The bins’ intelligent systems provide the desk-based analysts with data related to their filling level and expected dates for collection. In addition to the smart e-bins already provided, averda will commission additional bins in the very near future.
With a capacity of 1 cubic meter, the e-bins collect small electronic items such as mobile phones, tablets, trimmers, laptops, hair dryers, chargers and any other type of electronic items that can fit into the anti-scavengers bin lid of 40×40 cm. Any waste that is categorized by Dubai Municipality as hazardous, such as light bulbs and batteries, is not accepted for disposal in the e-bins.
All items collected, except for laptops, are sorted in Averda Dubai’s waste processing facilities and handed over to one of averda’s recycling partners for appropriate recycling. The laptops are being collected and delivered to Dubai Municipality whom will attempt to refurbish them and hand them out for free to those who come from socially disadvantaged groups.
Mr Oussama Natour, averda’s UAE Managing Director, said: “In the past years, the level of electronic waste has seen an unprecedented increase. E-waste is an important global environmental and health issue and we need to identify better methods and means of not just disposing of the e-waste but, most importantly, reusing and recycling it, primarily given that the United Nations Environmental Programme estimates that between 2007 and 2020, the domestic television e-waste will double, computer e-waste will increase five times and cell phones waste will increase 18 times.”
Pretoria — The waste sector has the potential to contribute to South Africa’s economy, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa said.
“e-Waste management presents an opportunity for job creation and economic development through recycling,” Minister Molewa said.
She was speaking on Friday at a national consultative conference on electronic and electrical waste (e-Waste) management at the Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre in Gauteng.
The conference focused on issues around the contextualisation of the e-Waste challenges in South Africa, the management of e-Waste in Municipalities, e-Waste Recycling and Policy and legislative environment.
“We see the waste sector in general and the e-waste sector in particular as a catalyst for socio-economic development,” Minister Molewa said.
She said the waste sector was the source of new businesses and jobs; as well as an important contributor for attaining goals of a cleaner, greener South Africa.
Minister Molewa said every department is managing the e-Waste in silos and there is a need for coordination of efforts to ensure maximum impact.
“Most of the components of e-Waste are recyclable. We therefore need to put systems in place and infrastructure for collection, transportation, sorting and recycling of this waste stream,” she said.
The Department of Environment Affairs said whilst this may seem to be a huge challenge, there are simultaneously huge economic benefits for citizens of South Africa, opportunities for job creation, poverty alleviation and entrepreneurial opportunities from a well-planned, strategically resourced, well regulated, managed and controlled e-Waste system.
Recycling SA’s electronic waste (e-waste) will be a source of new business, job creation and will develop the country’s economy, says environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa.
SA has an unemployment rate of 25%, and Molewa says government recognises the potential of the e-waste sector in helping drive job creation and is committed to working with the sector.
“There are opportunities for job creation and poverty alleviation, and entrepreneurial opportunities from a well-planned, strategically resourced, well regulated,managed and controlled e-waste system,” she says.
The minister says her department has identified recycling as a way to regulate waste management in the country, and not only protect citizens’ health and the environment, but create jobs at the same time.
“Most of the components of e-waste are recyclable. The department has put systems in place for the collection, transportation, sorting and recycling of e-waste,” she says.
“We see the waste sector in general and the e-waste sector in particular as a catalyst for socio-economic development. It is the source of new businesses and jobs, as well as an important contributor to us attaining our goals of a cleaner, greener South Africa,” Molewa explains.
ICT veteran Adrian Schofield says government can form a formal e-waste supply chain by training people to educate their local communities.
“An opportunity to elevate indigent people who currently sift through waste on an informal basis into a properly organised workforce will repay the required investment through the value created from recycled materials and the prevention of environmental damage through toxic dumping,” he notes.
Meanwhile, the e-Waste Association of South Africa (eWASA) also notes the e-waste epidemic in SA can potentially boost the economy.
According to eWASA, through the establishment of proper recycling facilities, precious metals, including gold, indium and palladium, can safely be reclaimed and re-used.
Molewa notes the country’s government institutions, which include departments, provincial departments, municipalities and state-owned enterprises, generate significant amounts of e-waste.
The minister says e-waste makes up 5% to 8% of municipal solid waste in SA and is growing at a rate three times faster than any other form of waste. This becomes a further challenge because of the lack of proper management facilities for e-waste, which means large amounts of e-waste will be disposed of in landfill sites.
In 2008, e-WASA warned “Africa is becoming a dumping ground for America and Europe under the guise of donations…and if e-waste is not managed, SA could find itself and its people in a high risk health and environmental crisis”.
“The challenge in the proper management of e-waste is a result of a lack of recycling infrastructure, inadequate funding, poor legislation, a lack of public awareness and market-based instruments,” says Molewa.
Schofield agrees SA does have a serious e-waste problem but this is part of a larger problem of waste management.
“Attention to the value of recycling and to the detrimental effects of certain types of toxic waste has not received the attention from government at all levels that it should. We are only now beginning to see municipalities paying attention to recycling and educating households and businesses into separating waste into categories,” he says.
Less than a sixth of the tens of millions of tonnes of electronic and electrical waste generated across the world last year was properly recycled, reused or treated, a study has found.
There was 41.8 million tonnes of “e-waste”, ranging from washing machines to mobile phones in 2014 – containing an estimated £35 billion in resources such as gold, silver and copper, as well as toxins including ozone layer-depleting gases and mercury.
But just 6.5 million tonnes was sent to proper recycling, reuse or treatment systems, the Global E-Waste Monitor compiled by the United Nations University (UNU) think tank found.
While the US and China produced the most electronic and electrical waste overall, contributing 32% of the total, the UK was one of the biggest producers of e-waste per person – coming fifth behind Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Denmark.
The problem is growing as a result of rising sales and shortening life cycles of electronic and electrical equipment, which includes any device with a battery or an electric lead, the UNU said.
UN under-secretary-general David Malone said: “Worldwide, e-waste constitutes a valuable ‘urban mine’ – a large potential reservoir of recyclable materials.
“At the same time, the hazardous content of e-waste constitutes a ‘toxic mine’ that must be managed with extreme care.
“The monitor provides a baseline for national policymakers, producers and the recycling industry, to plan take-back systems.”
He said it would also help control the illegal trade in electronic and electrical waste.
“This will eventually lead to improve resource efficiency while reducing the environmental and health impacts of e-waste,” he said.
The waste generated in 2014 contained an estimated 16.5 million tonnes of iron, 1.9 million tonnes of copper and 300 tonnes of gold, which was equal to a little over a tenth (11%) of the world’s total gold production in 2013.
Toxins in the waste including 2.2 million tonnes of lead glass, 300,000 tonnes of batteries – as well as mercury, cadmium, chromium, which can harm health, and 4,400 tonnes of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Around 60% of the waste was a mix of large and small equipment used in homes and businesses, with large items including washing machines, dishwashers, electric stoves and solar panels and smaller items including vacuum cleaners, electric shavers and video cameras.
Just 7% of the waste was made up of mobile phones, calculators, personal computers, printers and other small IT equipment.
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Plastics are one of the most used materials in today’s world because of its various properties, ranging from cost saving and light weighting to durability and longevity.
However, as we are using more plastic products, we are also creating more plastic waste. In keeping with international trends and the local legislative framework, the South African plastics industry has committed to the vision ‘Zero plastics to landfill by 2030’. In my opinion a somewhat ambitious target, but surely one that will call the industry to definitive action.
According to data from Plastics|SA, only 20%, or 280,000 tons, of all plastics manufactured in South Africa were recycled in 2013, which shows an increase of 4,1% from 2012. Of the 280,000 tons, 220,400 tons (79%) were plastics packaging products.
One of the reasons Plastics|SA states for the slow increase in the recycling rate, specifically for plastic packaging, is the economic down-turn during 2013 that had a direct impact on the quality and quantity of plastic packaging available for recycling. On the one hand the consumer purchased less, thus less packaging, and on the other hand the exchange rate favoured the export of recyclables.
However, it is not only the target of sending ‘Zero plastics to landfill by 2030’ that is driving change and the way in which we as producers view our responsibility towards an increase in plastics waste. In South Africa we have a progressive environmental regulatory framework. The right to an environment that is not harmful to one’s health or well-being is entrenched as a fundamental right in the Constitution of South Africa.
Understanding and navigating legislation can be somewhat daunting, but with reference to waste management and the impact of various pieces of legislation on our industry, we should understand the basic principles of the following Acts and Strategies:
- National Environmental Management: Waste Act (59/2008)
- National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act (26/2014)
- National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS)
- National Pricing Strategy for Waste Management (NPSWM)
The promulgation of the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (59/2008), has placed great emphasis on recycling and the reduction of materials to landfill. It allows for the use of economic instruments applied to specific waste streams to serve as an incentive or disincentive to ultimately increase the diversion of material from landfill.
Six years after the Waste Act was promulgated, we saw the National Environmental Management: Waste Amendment Act (26/2014) from which the National Pricing Strategy for Waste Management (NPSWM) is a direct consequence. The Waste Act, as amended, provides for the determination of waste management charges and its review, as well as for the collection of these charges through the national fiscal system.
It also makes provision for the establishment of a Waste Management Bureau within the structures of the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). The main purpose of the Waste Management Bureau will be to process, monitor and evaluate any Industry Waste Management Plan (IndWMP) submitted to the DEA. All of these aspects are prescribed in the NPSWM.
Time to get serious
It is time that we get serious about the impact that the Waste Act could have on our industry. We know that we need to increase recycling rates of our various waste streams – from rigid to flexible. But do we know what will happen if we don’t?
The Waste Act introduces us to additional principles such as the life-cycle approach to waste management, extended producer responsibility (EPR), the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle.
Within the framework of EPR, we as an industry remain financially or physically responsible for a product to its post-consumer stage. According to the Waste Act, this responsibility could include the implementation of waste minimisation practices, the funding of campaigns to increase the reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste, conducting awareness programmes to inform the public of the impacts of waste emanating from the product on health and the environment.
However, should the Minister of Environmental Affairs believe that a specific waste stream either poses a threat to health or the environment, either due to the quantity or composition of this waste stream, and that current measures are insufficient in dealing with this waste stream, the Minister may declare such a waste a priority waste.
Section 28 of the Waste Act allows for the Minister to require a specific industry to submit an IndWMP or any industry may elect to voluntarily submit an IndWMP to the Minister for approval. Typically an IndWMP will provide the Minister with a detailed status quo analysis of the current waste management system, set realistic targets for waste minimisation within a particular industry, outline milestone indicators with achievable time-frames for different interventions and provide for sound record-keeping systems.
The National Waste Management Strategy (NWMS) is a legislative requirement of the Waste Act set out to achieve the objects of the Act. According to Michael Goldblatt one of the challenges facing waste management in South Africa is a policy or regulatory environment that does not actively promote the waste management hierarchy.
This has limited economic potential of the waste management sector, which has an estimated turn-over of approximately R10bn per annum. Both the private and public sector believes that waste collection and the recycling industry make meaningful contributions to job creation and the GDP, and will continue to do so with the right combination of industry support and legislative drivers.
To this effect government is proposing an approach that will optimally combine regulation and compliance measures with self-regulatory components, voluntary initiatives, economic incentives and fiscal mechanisms. The approach establishes baseline regulations for the waste sector as a foundation for a co-regulatory system that relies on industry initiative and voluntary compliance.
In cases where industry response proves insufficient for dealing with waste challenges or where market failure prevails, more interventionist regulatory tools may be deployed, i.e. a mandatory EPR scheme where IndWMP have been ineffective.
Purpose of NPSWM
The National Pricing Strategy for Waste Management (NPSWM) is a legislative requirement of the Waste Act and gives effect to the NWMS. It contains guiding methodologies for the setting of waste management charges, the implementation of IndWMP and the operations of the Waste Management Bureau.
The selection and use of economic instruments, as outlined in the strategy, is strongly grounded in the polluter pays principle whereby all generators of waste (including businesses and households) are responsible for the costs of managing wastes generated.
The NPSWM is furthermore based on the principles of environmentally related taxation as per Chapter 2 of the National Treasure Framework for considering market-based instruments to support environmental fiscal reform in South Africa.
One of the aspects addressed in the NPSWM is that of EPR schemes. It is suggested that amongst other advantages, these EPR schemes could be used to relieve municipalities of some of the financial burden of management, promote ‘design for recycling’ initiatives and encourage the use of more recycled content in production processes.
In essence, EPR shifts the responsibility for waste management away from government to industry and these schemes are typically funded through the implementation of various economic instruments, levied either directly by the obligated industry (e.g. product charges, advanced recycling fees, deposit refund schemes, EPR fees), or by government (e.g. through material, input or product taxes).
It is the Minister’s prerogative to declare the application of EPR to a product, group of products or waste stream and the evaluation criteria proposed to identify possible candidates for EPR schemes include:
- Risk of harm – Products with toxic constituents that may become a problem at the end of life.
- Large products – that are not easily and conveniently thrown out as waste.
- Complex products – Products with multiple material types that make them difficult to recover in traditional recycling systems.
- Voluntary measures insufficient – where participation rates or waste diversion from landfill remain low for voluntary EPR schemes already in existence.
- Current waste stream recycling/recovery low – where the diversion of specific waste streams from landfill is low, as benchmarked against developing and developed countries (e.g. % recycling).
It is important to note that if a waste stream has not been prioritised by the Minister and a voluntary EPR schemes are already in operation, the suggested course of action would be for that voluntary systems to continue operating to ensure minimal disruption to current waste management activities. These voluntary EPR schemes may however be ‘influenced’ by DEA through the approval and implementation of the relevant IndWMPs (e.g. requiring greater support of EPR schemes to municipalities, setting of recycling targets, monitoring and evaluation by government, etc.).
But as in any industry and with any voluntary programme, there is always the question of dealing with ‘free riders’ or companies that either refuse or fail to participate. In a recent meeting with DEA, this question was posed in relation to the pricing strategy and DEA responded: “There is a proposed additional tax that will be imposed on free riders. DEA will make it compulsory that companies need to be part of an Industry Waste Management Plan and anyone not forming part of the plan will be subjected to higher tax levels. Engagement with SARS in relation to free riders will still take place.”
When we debate sustainability in the business environment we could easily divide companies into three basic categories, namely: those who only recently embarked on the journey towards greater sustainability, those who are happily using the hype around environmental sustainability as an opportunity to ‘green wash’ their products and brands and those who have gone through great lengths (and costs) to implement the principles of sustainability at every level of their businesses.
I am of the opinion that the majority of companies operating within the PVC industry in South Africa, and globally, fall into the latter group. This is certainly true for members of SAVA who voluntarily signed a Product Stewardship Programme (PSP) in 2011 and continue to work towards achieving its robust targets and deadlines!
DEA indicated in an Industry Waste Management Forum held on 13 February 2015 that they working on a Section 28 Notice to invite industries to submit IndWMPs and that they are engaging on an ongoing basis with sectors and industries that have already voluntarily submitted their IndWMPs. It is foreseen that the Section 28 Notice will be published before the end of this financial year, to also allow a 30 day commenting period, after which the process on calling for the submission of IndWMP will be finalised.
Costs of failure
The outlined legislation either holds an opportunity for the local PVC industry to pro-actively submit and bring into effect its IndWMP, or it holds a risk should the industry decide to adopt a wait-and-see approach. When it comes to legislation and regulations, companies tend to underestimate the cost of non-compliance, which, within the framework of the NPSWM, could be dealt with by the implementation of a government managed tax similar to the plastic bag levy of which we are all too familiar with. Product manufacturers need to understand the true costs of failure, assess the business implications, and adopt long-term strategies to avoid these costs.
To this effect, SAVA is in the process of conducting an extensive recycling survey that will ultimately feed into an IndWMP that we as an industry will voluntarily submit to DEA, in response to the Waste Act and EPR and give effect to in the near future.
In summary SAVA believes that the key to succeeding and avoiding costs in our current regulatory environment is to take a proactive approach and for our industry to invest in a long-term approach towards waste management. The long-term costs of being unprepared are simply too high.
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.
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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