Time to adopt  circular economy

Joel Savage Correspondent
It costs the developed countries millions of dollars when it comes to waste recycling, therefore, worldwide, about half of the plastic waste destined for recycling is exported.

About 51 percent of world exports of used plastics, over seven million tonnes, in 2016 went to China and the rest to developing countries of Africa and Southeast Asia.

However, China has put an end to accepting waste from foreign countries.

According to the UN, each year developed countries produce more than 50 million tonnes of electronic waste, approximately the same amount is produced in the third world countries.

However, only a quarter of this waste of the electronics industry is recycled in accordance with environmental requirements.

The rest of the electronic trash is either buried in landfills or transported to less developed countries such as China, Ghana, the Philippines, Nigeria, Somalia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Guinea, India and a number of others.

Of course, international legislation, first of all, the Basel Convention on the Control of the Tran boundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes, which entered into force in 1989, prohibits the export of electronic waste even for that purpose of disposal.

This has been signed by 166 countries, but the exporting companies of used electronic devices find loopholes to circumvent international bans. Electronic waste is brought into the third world countries under the guise of humanitarian aid for the computerisation of schools, universities, hospitals, or for repairing broken equipment and there they go straight to landfills for disassembly or burial.

Much of the electronic scrap is smuggled into third world countries. The US government has been involved in all sorts of crimes and does not limit itself to anything.

America openly exports abroad up to 80 percent of its electronic junk. This is how America wants you to see how “great” it is as a country.

In addition to the Basel, in 1991, the Bamas Convention was adopted, which entered into force in 1998. It aims to protect the health of the population and the environment of African countries and directly prohibits the import of all hazardous and radioactive waste, the dumping or burning of hazardous waste in the oceans and inland waters of the African continent.

However, this convention did not prevent the transformation of many parts of Africa into world landfills of hazardous waste or junkyard. The largest and most famous are in Ghana and Nigeria.

In 1992, about seven million people lived in the capital of Nigeria, the port city of Lagos, and the dump was located far from the city.

The city became so big that its borders reached the landfill, and the landfill, in turn, grew so much that it became an integral part of the capital.

In particular, right in the middle of the dump, there are highways, hospitals and schools functioning.

The dump contains not less than 66 thousand tonnes of waste from Europe, a quarter of which is toxic to the environment. About seven percent of garbage, especially, faulty household electrical appliances, of the entire landfill comes from the United States.

Every month, up to 500 thousand old TVs, monitors, copiers, refrigerators, and other equipment come in containers.

At the same time, 75 percent of the contents of the containers arriving there cannot be reused, repaired or resold. All this trash goes to a landfill, where it is burned in order to save space. However, it has been acknowledged by health officials that smoke from the burned electrical gadgets is hazardous to human health and dangerous to our environments. Weak security, porous borders, and corrupt African leaders have played a role in making Africa a dumping ground. This must come to an end.

Global e-waste production is on track to reach 120 million tonnes per year by 2050 if current trends continue, according to a report from the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) and the UN E-Waste Coalition released at Davos today.

The report reveals the annual value of global e-waste as over $62,5 billion, more than the GDP of most countries.

More than 44 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste was produced globally in 2017 — over six kilogrammes for every person on the planet. This is equivalent in weight to all the commercial aircraft ever built.

Less than 20 percent of e-waste is formally recycled, with 80 percent either ending up in landfill or being informally recycled — much of it by hand in developing countries, exposing workers to hazardous and carcinogenic substances such as mercury, lead and cadmium.

E-waste in landfill contaminates soil and groundwater, putting food supply systems and water sources at risk.

According to the report, in addition to health and pollution impacts, improper management of e-waste is resulting in a significant loss of scarce and valuable raw materials such as gold, platinum, cobalt and rare earth elements. As much as 7 percent of the world’s gold may currently be contained in e-waste, with 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of gold ore.

In the report, members of PACE and the UN E-Waste Coalition, including UN Environment, the Global Environment Facility, the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, emphasising the need for a circular economy in which resources are not extracted, used and discarded, but valued and reused in ways that minimise environmental impacts and create decent, sustainable jobs.

Solutions include durable product design, buy-back and return systems for used electronics, “urban mining” to extract metals and minerals from e-waste, and the “dematerialisation” of electronics by replacing outright device ownership with rental and leasing models in order to maximise product reuse and recycling opportunities. — Modern Ghana/UNEP.

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