Type de publication: article
Date de publication: 04 mai 2018
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STATUS OF E-WASTE LEGISLATIONS
When establishing a new e-waste take-back and recycling system, it is vital to consider who will retain overall control and ultimately be responsible for the successful operation of the system. An entity must therefore be responsible for coordinating the specific actions of the stakeholders who have various roles and responsibilities within the system. In addition, an entity must also ensure that the system rules are enforced and compliance is ensured.
National e-waste policies and legislation play an important role because they set standards and controls to govern the actions of stakeholders who are associated with e-waste in the public and private spheres. Moreover, these policies and legislation shall frame the setting of a workable and fair financial and economic model, which must be sustainable and function properly. It is therefore vital that policymakers, together with stakeholders, establish a financial model to cover the collection sites and logistics along with the physical recycling itself.
Additionally, the types of e-waste covered by legislation differ considerably across the countries. This also explains the difficulties in coordinating collected and recycled e-waste amounts. Many of the countries that have already adopted e-waste legislation can still increase the coverage to include all products. For example, in the US, the consumer electronic products included in the EPA report series are electronic products used in residences and commercial establishments such as businesses and institutions, and are categorized as video, audio, and information products (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2016). Therefore, many electric and electronic appliances are out of scope in the USA, such as all cooling and freezing equipment, most large equipment like dishwashers, dryers etc, some small equipment and lamps.
Policies and legislation shall frame the setting of a workable and fair financial and economic model
The sub-regions where e-waste legislation is most developed are found in Europe. In Europe, the e-waste amounts documented to be collected and recycled are also highest. Other countries with developed e-waste recycling and collection are in Northern America, Eastern Asia, and Southern Asia.
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In several regions, national e-waste legislation is completely absent, such as in large parts of Africa, Caribbean, Central Asia, Eastern Asia and Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia.
Most legislation and policies currently refer to the principle of “Extend Producer Responsibility”, which emerged in academic circles in the early 1990s. It is generally seen as a policy principle that requires manufacturers to accept responsibility for all stages in a product’s lifecycle, including end-of-life management.
There are three primary objectives of the EPR principle:
- Manufacturers shall be incentivised to improve the environmental design of their products and the environmental performance of supplying those products.
- Products should achieve a high utilisation rate.
- Materials should be preserved through effective and environmentally-sound collection, treatment, reuse, and recycling.
The key principle behind the reasoning that producers or manufacturers should be primarily responsible for this post-consumer phase is that most of the environmental impacts are predetermined in the design phase.The EPR principle is implemented in a variety of legislations and policies. Under an EPR principle, responsibility can be assigned either individually, where producers are responsible for their own products, or collectively, where producers in the same product type or category fulfil the responsibility for EoL management together.
A system as close as possible to Individual Producer Responsibility (IPR) can more easily stimulate the improvements in the design phase because the producer is interested in the benefits obtained by the improved design. However, the complexity of such a system has so far prevented its development, resulting in policies and legislation that refer to collective responsibility rather than individual.
Responsibility for all stages in a product’s lifecycle, including end-of-life management
However, in developing countries, a major hurdle to the producer adopting responsibility results from the lack of treatment facilities (TF) that are compliant with international standards and a lack of collection infrastructure that channels e-waste to these sites. This can be addressed by harnessing government support directed at ramping up compliant TFs or by market-orientated approaches that aim to leverage compliant recyclers to create their business case.
International Laws on E-waste
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal is a multilateral treaty aimed at suppressing environmentally and socially detrimental hazardous waste trading patterns. The convention was signed by 186 countries. E-waste, due to its constitution, often contains hazardous elements. Therefore, the Convention affirms that in order to protect human health and the environment, hazardous waste should not be traded freely like ordinary commercial goods, and thus it establishes a written notification and approval process for all cross-border movements of hazardous wastes.
But the Basel Convention’s regulatory exemption on equipment that is destined for reuse is entirely compatible with its prime environmental objective to prevent waste generation, as reuse extends the lifecycle of EEE and therefore mitigates the generation of hazardous waste. By prolonging the functionality of electronics, reuse promotes natural resource conservation and at least temporarily diverts the need for recycling or disposal. However, the distinction of whether something is waste or not, and therefore intended for re-use, is a long-standing discussion under the Basel Convention. The most recent Conference-of-Parties (COP13) could not reach a final consensus.
THE CASE OF THE AFRICAN CONTINENT
UNU estimates that in 2016, domestic e-waste generation in Africa was approximately 2.2 Mt, with contributions from Egypt (0.5 Mt), South Africa and Algeria (each 0.3 Mt) ranking highest. The top three African countries that have the highest e-waste generation per inhabitant are: Seychelles (11.5 kg/inh), Libya (11 kg/inh), and Mauritius (8.6 kg/inh). Currently, little information is available on the amount of e-waste documented that is collected and recycled by the formal sector in Africa. Only a handful of countries in the continent have enacted e-waste-specific policies and legislation. Recycling activities are dominated by ill-equipped informal sectors, with related inefficient resource recovery and environmental pollution.
The African continent hosts the least number of direct manufacturers of EEEs, yet it carries a significant burden of contribution to the global e-waste problem, generating about 2.2 Mt annually from domestic output. Most of this is derived from imports of new and used equipment, and a few local assembly plants. Locally derived generation is believed to constitute about 50% to 85% of total e-waste generation, the rest being from the transboundary illegal import from developed countries in the Americas and Europe, and from China (Secretariat of the Basel Convention, 2011). Local generation of e-waste is expected to rise in the future with the penchant for consumption of foreign goods and the quest for comfort associated with consumer goods.
Only a handful of countries in the continent have enacted e-waste-specific policies and legislation
Most African countries are now aware of and concerned with the dangers inherent to poor management of e-waste. However, the legal and infrastructural framework for achieving sound management still remains far from realised in the majority of countries. Only very few countries (including Uganda and Rwanda) have any formal official government policy documents specific to e-waste management. In addition, despite the fact that almost all African countries have ratified the Basel Convention, most have not domesticated this in the form of appropriate legislations for various waste streams. As yet, only Madagascar (2015), Kenya (2016), and Ghana (2016) have formally passed a draft of e-waste bills into law. Several other countries (South Africa, Zambia, Cameroon, and Nigeria) are still working to achieve this in parliament.
In Nigeria, the draft is already officially being enforced for e-waste control by the country’s environment regulatory agency. E-waste imports are prohibited by this regulation, and its enforcement has resulted in the repatriation of several illegal e-waste shipments that arrived in Nigeria stuffed in second-hand vehicles or other containers. The Kenya E-waste Act, which still awaits official approval before public dissemination, has as one of its highlights that no company will manufacture or import any EEE without indicating where its e-waste will be treated at end-of-life.
The Ghana legislation prohibits imports and exports of e-waste, phases out the inclusion of printed circuit boards in electronic equipment, provides for the registration of manufacturers, importers, and distributors, as well as the establishment of an e-waste management fund to be achieved through payment of an advance eco-fund by manufacturers, importers, and distributors. Draft bills and regulations of many other African countries incorporate several of these features.
In Nigeria, the draft is already officially being enforced for e-waste control by the country’s environment regulatory agency
Based on these previous mentioned initiatives, governments in many African countries have begun showing increasing concerns and interest in adopting comprehensive and integrated approaches to solving the e-waste problem. Such approaches will integrate the informal sector into the official management structures, establish take-back schemes, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), and Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs) schemes. In this regard, many countries are currently receiving advisory, technical, and financial support from several UN agencies, other development agencies, the private sector, and especially from the alliance of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in Africa.
The government of Egypt partnered with the Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) in a programme whereby an agreement was signed to build the capacity and raise awareness towards efficient, environmentally sound, and sustainable e-waste recycling. It focuses on the recycling of electronic and electric waste as a promising emerging industry. The Government of Italy has provided $4 million to implement the Third Phase of the Egyptian-Italian Environmental Cooperation Programme (EIECP), which is implemented under the supervision of UNDP. This package includes a safe health and electronic waste management programme in order to reduce emissions of harmful solid organic pollutants.
In Nigeria and Kenya, the proposed EPR schemes require manufacturers and importers to formulate their EPR procedures and obtain approvals from the government, whereas the Ghana model is based on the payment of eco-fees from such manufacturers and importers to a fund to be managed by government and the industry, and used for managing e-waste. The draft e-waste-specific EPR scheme for South Africa also features elements that are similar to the Nigerian, Kenyan, and Ghana proposals/model.
The EPR scheme has good prospects in Africa but may be problematic due to several factors, including the mistrust of the scheme by an apprehensive informal sector, the lack of recycling infrastructure and standards, socio-cultural difficulties with take-back schemes, choice of appropriate EPR models, difficulty with defining who is a ‘producer’ in the context of a lack of real manufacturers, and generally poor financial support for the scheme.
Recycling of electronic and electric waste as a promising emerging industry
E-waste management in Africa is dominated by thriving informal sector collectors and recyclers in most countries, as take-back schemes and modern infrastructure for recycling are non-existent or grossly limited. Government control of this sector is at present very minimal and inefficient. Handling of e-waste is thus characterised by manual stripping to remove electronic boards for resale, open burning of wires to recover few major components (copper, aluminium, iron), and the deposition of other bulk components, including CRTs, in open dumpsites.
This practice by the informal sector often involves the use of illicit labour of pregnant women and minors, as well as a lack of personal protection equipment for the workers. Resulting from such practices is the severe pollution of the environment, very poor efficiencies in recovery of expensive, trace, and precious components, and the exposure of labourers and the general populace to hazardous chemical emissions and releases. The Agbogbloshie site in Ghana is the classic example that has received international attention and concern. In this context, the use of standardised modern e-waste recycling plants should have been a good solution.
It is noteworthy, however, that a few modern recycling plants that were established in some east African countries (e.g. Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania) have suffered business failures and closures due, in part, to adoption of inappropriate business models. Notwithstanding such failures, there is now renewed interest by private business outfits to establish recycling plants in many parts of the continent.
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