How does Kenya Cope with Recycling Electronic Waste
Used electronic equipment poses health risks to people who might want to recycle them. Martin Muteti, a consultancy manager with Practical Action, an NGO, points out that the country is sitting on a time bomb if no legislation is enacted against irresponsible disposals of electronic equipment.
Some people have turned to electronic waste for spare parts and other items that are sold to second hand dealers or the recycling industry.
Unlike in source regions where manufacturers adhere to safety disposal rules, there are no laws in Kenya and other African countries guiding the refuse management.
A survey conducted by Practical Action found that mobile phone repairers exposed themselves to some health dangers. E-waste contains both valuable materials such as gold and copper as well as highly toxic substances, such as lead and mercury.
But recycling of discarded equipment without adequate safeguards can bring health and environmental hazards.
A high influx of ICT equipment has been witnessed in recent years, especially in Personal Computers (PCs) and mobile phones.
Circuit's board found in PCs contains hazards substances that interfere with the lungs and at times expose them to high risks of contracting skin cancer.
The Cathode Ray tubes CRTs are also of special concern due to the lead oxide which should be handled with care when the equipment are dismantled to recover copper.
In Kenya, however, some of these products have been turned into money generating projects.
The Computer for School of Kenya (CFSK) project which recycles used computers has initiated a safe programme of dismantling these tubes in an effort to recover valuable metals.
Under the e-waste programme, CFSK converts the dead monitors into TV sets which are affordable to low income earners.
The organisation has also an E-Waste programme that ensures that PC boards are sent back to Europe and Asia where they are recycled.
Experience from China and India show that e-waste recycling is mostly done in the informal sector with little or no legal regulation.
The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that up to 50 million tonnes of electronic waste is generated annually in the whole world.