Meaning more jobs and less toxic landfill
South Africa is on the brink of adopting a new national plan to handle the estimated 360,000 tons of e-waste produced per annum. The Minister of Environmental Affairs has called for a waste management plan to address the challenges and opportunities presented by electronic waste. The E-waste Recycling Authority NPC (ERA NPC) has been working on a plan that will not only improve e-waste management in South Africa, but also create employment opportunities and keep costs reasonable for the producers of electronic goods.
“We are only collecting and recycling between 25,000 and 35,000 tons of e-waste at the moment, a fraction of what we should be doing,” says Ashley du Plooy, a director of ERA NPC. “E-waste is growing at around four times that of solid municipal waste. It is estimated that by 2040 the globe will have a population of about 10 billion people and 250 billion connected devices. That is 25 devices per capita. E-waste will become a bigger problem than plastic. This is a scenario that will change with the implementation of the Industry Waste Management Plan (IndWMP). ”
The Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs has called for producers of electronic goods to come up with a plan to solve South African’s e-waste problem. To fund the plan, producers will be levied per kilogram of goods imported or manufactured here.
"South Africa is facing a watershed moment. Producers are going to have to subscribe to a national plan to manage the waste from their products,” says du Plooy. “ERA is working with all the stakeholders in the sector to ensure that our IndWMP is feasible for everyone concerned and we encourage all producers and recyclers to become members during this consultation process.”
Electronic waste has a potentially huge value from the materials like metals, glass and plastic but it also has toxic elements and, as such, is a difficult waste stream to manage. It is also a challenging sector because of the volume of e-waste being generated. “The current e-waste recyclers are not going to be able to deal with the targeted volumes,” says du Plooy. “In terms of the IndWMP, we have set a fairly conservative target to increase the current collection rates from around seven percent to around twenty-six percent in five years.” However, given that there are so few e-waste recyclers in the country that follow best practices, and given their current volumes of collecting and recycling, even if they double those volumes there is considerable scope for new enterprises throughout the value chain.
The ERA IndWMP makes provision for supporting and subsiding smaller enterprises as well as addressing issues like logistics and transportation costs. du Plooy says, “Key objectives of our plan is to divert e-waste from landfill because we don’t have landfill space, to create jobs and take care of the environment.”
About ERA NPC: ERA NPC is a product responsibility organisation that recognises the multiple stakeholders that have to play a role in the electronic waste problem.
ERA members include: the Information Technology Association, with more than 200 members who account for as much as 50% of the ICT goods on the South African market; the Small Appliances Development Association with 8 key members accounting for between 70% and 80% of the domestic appliances in the South African market; Sims Recycling, the worlds largest electronic waste recycling company; Desco electronic recyclers; and the Southern African E-waste Alliance.
The Industry Waste Management Plan started as a multi stakeholder process. ERA had electronics producers and recyclers in the same room for over three years addressing and formulating the Industry Waste Management Plan which they have now taken to the public for consultation.
“There is 360,000 tons of e-waste produced per annum in South Africa. Of that, only 25,000 to 35,000tons is being recycled.”
“A key objective of ERA’s Industry Waste Management plan is to divert e-waste from landfill because we don’t have landfill space, to create jobs and take care of the environment.”
"The Minister of Environmental Affairs has called for a waste management plan to address the challenges and opportunities presented by electronic waste.”
- Due to the high value of the metals and materials found in e-waste, this type of recycling is often referred to as urban mining.
- By 2016 the generation of global e-waste had grown to 44.7 million metric tons annually – equivalent to almost 4,500 Eiffel Towers - Source: The Global Ewaste Monitor 2017.
- There are 10 categories of e-waste:
- Large household appliances;
- Small household appliances;
- IT and Telecommunications Equipment;
- Consumer Equipment and Photovoltaic Panels;
- Lighting Equipment;
- Electrical and Electronic Tools (with the exception of large scale stationary industrial tools);
- Toys, Leisure and Sports Equipment;
- Medical Devices (with the exception of all implanted and infected products);
- Monitoring and Control Instruments;
- Automatic Dispensers.
e-waste e-waste africa