|The flipside of e-donations|
|Thursday, 14 June 2012 11:52|
A new wave of environmental degradation is threatening Africa’s environments, it is not the effect of climate change, but electronic waste dumped in Africa by some Western countries in the form of computer donations and other electrical gadgets.
Computers and other second-hand electronic gadgets dumped to most, under the guise of donations are causing more problems for the environment as they cannot be easily disposed due to chemical and other compositions that make them harmful if disposed without due care.
By so doing they have made it a point that they hold Africa at ransom, since all countries receiving the donations will always turn to the West for better recycling and incineration equipment .
Technology and Cyber Security Conference in Harare that electronic waste from computers and other gadgets is seriously threatening the environment hence the need to come up with a legal framework on their disposal.
considerate of the environmental risks caused by e-waste.
Because of generous donations that come in, most institutions are finding themselves with warehouses stockpiled with unnecessary computers and other gadgets that they are finding difficult to dispose of.
While the rapid spread of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) has attracted public attention, both on the positive step such as towards the reduction of the digital divide and on the negative effects of bad management of waste of electrical and electrical equipment (WEE or e-waste) on the environment and human health.
According to information from some ICT websites Ghana accounts for mountains of hazardous waste weighing about 40 million tonnes every year. The waste, mostly from Europe and North America, is burned, albeit in a hazardous effort to recover valuable metals.
“We, however, continue to receive these gadgets some even past their shelf life and it is costing us and the environment. In other countries the used gadgets are collected and burnt in search of precious metals such as copper,” the researcher said.
The main objectives behind STEP are to optimise the life cycle of electrical and electronic equipment by improving supply chains and reducing contamination. It also seeks to promote re-use of the electrical devices in place of disposing and exercising the disparities such as the digital divide between the developed and industrialised nations as well as increasing scientific public knowledge on e-waste.
STEP culminated from research conducted in 2003 at United Nations Universities (UNU) to find the relationship between electronic devices, especially computers and the environment.
This led to the publication of a book project called “Computers and Environment 2003”.
It seeks to promote safe and eco- energy-efficient, re-use and recycling practices in Africa and around the globe in a socially responsible manner.
In 2005 the United Nations released the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Synthesis Report. This was a result of a four-year global study of Earth’s environment, involving more than 1 360 experts from 95 countries.
The report contained a stark warning: “Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.”
A paper on ICTs and women development said that while the problem of e-waste in Zimbabwe was not documented, the increasing importation of electrical and electronic devices, some of them with a short life- span, is a threat to the environment.
The short lifespan of most of these gadgets was confirmed by the United Nations Environmental Programme through its reports and the warnings of dangerous amounts of increasing e-waste, which is often dumped in waste disposal sites.
There is no empirical proof on the deliberate importation of electrical devices for dumping in the country, although it is there. But the truth of the matter is that there is a very low level of e-waste readiness. Discussions with ministries and departments on ICTs, the environment and waste management revealed there is neither awareness nor preparedness at all on issues of e-waste management.
Association for Progressive Communications (APC)’s senior official Alan Finlay issued a paper on e-waste. He contends that there is a positive correlation between the economic strength of a country and the levels of e-waste.
The reduction in prices of ICT material has given birth to an upsurge of electronic devices bought from other countries. Some gadgets are second-hand products and would either come as donations or at very cheap prices.
The problem is immense and is mainly caused by the pack rat mentality within most organisations where office equipment especially computers are kept in storerooms then later discarded because they have become obsolete. The situation also applies to cellular phones.
World Links Zimbabwe, an organisation whose focus is to facilitate the use of computers, urges schools to bring obsolete computers to their workshop in Harare. World Links has a recouping programme where computers are broken down to their basic parts; reusable parts are put back to use and the waste is sent to municipal dumps and landfills, but still this does not solve the problem.
However, with no incentives given to the schools to respond positively, the programme is facing challenges. This means most computers will remain gathering dust, and taking up valuable space in institutions.
known to cause damage to the nervous system, the brain, the kidneys, and can cause birth defects and cancer.
The Basel Action Network’s International Toxics Progress Report Cardalso confirms that Zimbabwe has not yet ratified the Basel Convention.
The Hazardous Substances and Articles Control Act, provides the legal framework for the control and management of toxic chemicals but is silent on e-waste. The most recent legislation is Statutory Instrument 10 of 2007 which covers disposal of dangerous waste products.