UNEP backs action on e-waste in East Africa

by unep | UNEP
Tuesday, 7 September 2010 08:09 GMT

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The amount of e-waste generated worldwide is increasing by around 40 million tons each year

Nairobi, 7 September 2010 - Kenya is set to become the first East African nation to develop regulations on the management of electronic waste (e-waste), following a national conference held at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi. The aim is to minimize the impacts of the unsafe disposal of electronic products on public health and the environment.

Delegates from Kenya's Environment Ministry, the country's National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), software giant Microsoft, UNEP and the telecommunications industry came together , Tuesday, to chart a common way forward in dealing with e-waste management in line with the Basel Convention and other international frameworks.

The need to identify and map the environmental impact of e-waste on Kenya was identified as a national priority. Experts also discussed the capacity constraints hindering the disposal of e-waste as well as the collection system and recycling infrastructure.

E-waste consists of old electronic items such as computers, printers, mobile phones, refrigerators and televisions. Increasing demand for electronic goods in Kenya and in the developing world means that levels of e-waste are growing fast. As a result, the hazardous substances such as heavy metals contained in most of these discarded products are posing a serious risk to the environment and to human health.

But e-waste also presents an economic opportunity through the recycling and refurbishing of discarded electronic goods and the harvesting of the precious metals they contain.

A recent baseline study conducted by the Kenyan Information Communications and Technology Network, showed that Kenya generates 3,000 tons of electronic waste per year. The study predicts that the quantity is expected to rise as demand for electronic goods increases.

Internationally, China, India and Pakistan receive much of the world's e-waste. Worldwide, e-waste generation is growing by about 40 million tons a year.