Exclusive interview with Keith Anderson, Chairman, e-Waste Assocation of South Africa (EWASA) and presenter during the Electronic Waste pre-conference workshop at African Utility Week. He will address: “Successful management of electronic waste”.
How would you describe e-waste?
E-waste can be defined as any item that is electronic or electrical. Therefore it covers things such as electric toys, pacemakers, hearing aids, microwaves, fridges, stoves, batteries, computers, laptops, cell phones. Switchboards, car electronics, airplanes electronics, solar heaters etc. The list goes on and on. What is relevant is that almost every device we use, rich or poor, potentially is e-waste which needs to be treated responsibly at end of life.
How big is the problem in South Africa?
Locally, it is difficult to state an accurate figure simply because all the data sources are not readily available in order for it to be collated. This is due to OEMs, importers, manufacturers etc. not wanting to readily share these numbers. What is known is that e-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world due to the advances of technology. It is now pervasive in our daily lives irrespective of one’s social standing.
How big is the problem worldwide?
Indicated earlier it is really difficult to put an accurate number on the quantum generated worldwide on an annual basis. ABI research estimated in 2008 that 53 million tonnes of e-waste was generated with only 13% being recycled. Therein lies the challenge. It is also estimated that on average each person generates around 17 – 20 kg of e-waste annually. If we take that and multiply it by the latest world population stats of seven billion people, then it starts getting scary. The good news is that there are solutions, but these require significant investments and that is where all stakeholders need to do the right thing.
Tell us more about EWASA.
EWASA is a not for profit industry association established and registered in 2008. It is managed by volunteers. The key objectives are to create awareness of the problem, raise the level of proper recycling techniques and standards, lobby government on behalf of Industry to amend/update legislation where required and to provide a National Take Back Scheme for e-waste by establishing accredited collection points throughout the country linked to accredited recyclers.
What projects are you most excited about currently?
We have been working on launching our voluntary Industry Waste Management Plan (IWMP) for e-ewaste which can be viewed on our website. We are now going through the public participation phase and then it will be submitted to Department of Environmental Affairs for ratification. Secondly, were commissioning the first Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitor plant during the last week of February. This is really good news as CRTs are traditionally a problematic waste stream. Furthermore, we are in the final stages of concluding the erection of a Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) plant which will also treat mercury and button batteries. We are also in the final stages of a feasibility study to erect a refrigeration recycling plant in South Africa.
What exactly happens to e-waste as it is recycled? Can you give some examples?
There are many applications for the fractions that are produced from e-waste:-
- Roof tiles
- Man-hole covers
- Outdoor furniture
- Plastic bricks for sub-economic housing
- Waste to Art
- Secondary raw materials such as gold, silver, aluminium, glass etc. go back into primary production and manufacture
What will be your message at African Utility Week?
It is important for all of us to take responsibility for the safeguarding of our planet. Recycling starts at home by separating your waste streams into wet waste, glass, paper, plastic and e-waste. Take the different wastes to an accredited collection point. Support those companies that are taking positive action in protecting the environment. Boycott those companies that hide behind PR or fail to take responsibility for their products.
Events like AUW are important in raising awareness and educating a large group of people. Brazil is an example of a developing country that is a leading light in the efficient management of e-waste. This is mainly because the authorities got their education priorities on the issue straightened out.
Anything you would like to add?
We all need to be eco-warriors. We have one planet one life. Let’s make it work.