What is e-waste?
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a term for electronic products that have become unwanted, non-working or obsolete, or have reached the end of their useful life. Because technology advances at such a high rate, many electronic devices are being replaced after a few short years of use.
E-waste makes up 5 – 8 percent of municipal solid waste in South Africa and is growing at a rate three times faster than any other form of waste. Only between 15%-25% of e-waste is being recycled in South Africa.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) forecasts that obsolete computers, both in China and in South Africa, will rise by 500% in 2020 compared to their 2007 levels. Statistics show that developed countries will increase their exports of e-waste into China and Africa by 50-80%.
At last year’s national consultative conference on electronic and electrical waste (eWaste) management, the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa reaffirmed Government’s commitment to working with the waste sector in meeting its challenges. Some even say e-waste can be an opportunity of growth for South Africa!
However, boosting employment in the field of e-waste does need careful consideration. Research shows that unrestricted use of the informal sector to handle e-waste can create more problems than it solves. Metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic are all present in e-waste. For those workers who spend endless days exposed to dangerous levels of toxic elements with little to no protection, while breaking down electronics by hand, are at huge risk.
Tips on what to do with your e-waste:
- Becoming aware of the effects of e-waste is the first step!
- REUSE: Ask us to see if we can buy any of your electronic devices, or ask around in your network to see if your e-waste can still be of value to someone else.
- RECYCLE: If reuse is not an option, consider recycling! Electronic waste contains toxic substances, therefore this waste stream has to be properly managed. Bring your e-waste to one of the eight Recycling Centers in the Western Cape. Some recycling services also collect the e-waste from customer sites.