On Thursday 14th October 2021, Kenya joined the world in marking The International E-Waste day which involved a call to all innovators, producers, consumers and technology companies to increase their sustainability agenda on e-waste management. The Global E-Waste Monitor of 2020 reported that 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated globally in 2019 alone, a 21% rise over the past five years. Prediction by the report is that by 2030, electronic waste will be at 73 metric tonnes.
Kenya produced 40 tonnes of e-waste in 2020 and out of this only 1% was recycled. “The amounts of electronic waste are becoming a whole problem at large. Sadly, it is being given little attention as there are very few organizations that are at the fore-front to manage it and spread awareness to the Kenyan population about the same”. This is according to West Electrical and Electronic Equipment Centre (WEEE) CEO Mr, Boniface Mbithi.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of activities such as meetings, learning and businesses have been restrained to online platforms. This has resulted in the rise in demand of electronic devices such as mobile phones, chargers and laptops to be able to do activities virtually. However, a question that is not being given utmost concern is; where will all these gadgets go in a decade’s time?. If we do not dispose these electronic devices responsibly then we are headed into a crisis we might never recover from since e-waste is a threat to human health and the ecosystem. Every gadget used should be disposed off in a sustainable way.
Electronic gadgets contain a lot of contaminants like lead, lithium, cadmium that enter the biological system through air, water, soil and food which after contact with human leads to lung failure, brain damage, increased blood lead levels, skin damage, nausea, gastric and duodenal ulcers, headaches, vertigo and some related chronic illness. Also, these health hazards have been attributed to the techniques and operations applied during the e-waste recycling process. A majority of individuals who carry out these procedures lack basic training, and at times lack protective clothing when handling this deadly waste resulting in intense health implications.
In the face of climate change in Kenya, only a few non-governmental sectors that are well organized and have facilities have stepped up to treat and manage e-waste. E- waste recycling plants need more investment than other recycling facilities in order to fit in technology advanced equipment to make them handle waste efficiently in an eco friendly manner. The government needs to implement policies that protect the citizens and environment from exposure to electronic waste. It should come up with a permanent policy for use of electronic devices by involving the necessary stakeholders to facilitate the process.
Companies which are the highest emitters of e-waste need to be careful with what they dispose off to the environment. They should also try to manufacture devices with less toxic substances and be responsible for the disposal of these gadgets through recycling programmes. More awareness on e-waste is needed among all citizens. A lot of solutions are available to counter this menace but to make them successful; logistics, manpower and legislation should be considered.