An Inside Look at Rwanda’s Battle to Eliminate E-Waste

Along with the inexorable march of technology, and the creation and consumption of new electronic devices, the world is dealing with the ever-growing problem of e-waste. While some countries are making efforts to properly recycle or reuse electronic equipment and devices, other countries are still struggling with finding a means, and in the meantime are simply storing e-waste in landfills or warehouses. It’s a growing problem that will require a continual effort if we are going to ever get it under control.

The world of e-waste has been growing. China recently claimed the top spot in producing the most e-waste, with the USA in close second.

But in the country of Rwanda, change is happening in the fight to tackle e-waste. While the country’s e-waste production has continued to grow, generating around 10,000 tons a year, a company there is working to make sure it’s ready to take it all on. Introducing EnviroServe Rwanda, the country’s only e-waste recycling plant operator, and it only has one e-waste recycling plant to operate. For now.

E-Waste Recycling: A Recipe for Economic Growth?

Currently, the EnviroServe Rwanda recycling plant has been able to collect 700 tons of e-waste. But plans are already in place to expand operations and open a second facility. This is part of an effort to increase e-waste responsibility as well as nurturing a circulating economy. One way that the company is trying to grow their efforts is by opening more collection centers for e-waste. Currently, they only have three. But their plan is to have at least 30 across the country, making widespread e-waste management more manageable.

The other way this effort for growth works is by how EnviroServe Rwanda operates by handling e-waste in several ways: recycling, reusing, and repurposing.

Whatever can be refurbished, is renovated and repurposed. Computers are repaired and sold to schools. Other office equipment is also repaired and sold to schools. This provides equipment for education facilities, while also providing electronics with a second life, reducing the new for more and reducing the potential for new e-waste. E-waste that can be recycled is dismantled and recycled to remove both the hazardous waste associated with e-waste and to recover valuable components and materials. Some materials that they can recover from e-waste are those such as aluminum, copper, plastic, and steel.

Such efforts can turn the burden of e-waste into an economic opportunity, and one that promises growth. Profit can be made by recovering valuable materials and selling them back to appropriate industries. Steel can be sold to be a steel company to then be repurposed as building materials. Plastics can be sold to manufacturers to produce more textiles and other products. Aluminum can be sold to companies that manufacture cans or even parts for air transportation. And in the end, everyone profits from this effort to reduce e-waste.

Replicating these efforts in other nations can boost their economies as well, while reducing health risks for their people and reducing damage to the environment by dumping e-waste in landfills.

Challenges to the E-Waste Economy

While more countries are making efforts to control e-waste, and many are recognizing the economic opportunities to be found in e-waste management, there are still challenges that continue to stand in the way. For some countries, it is harder than others, but the challenges still stand.

In 2017, the 16th International Electronics Recycling Congress (IERC 2017) in Salzburg, Austria, came together to address the e-waste situation and the recycling efforts. It was recognized that there were still challenges that stood in the way of e-waste management becoming a true economically-promising industry.

Mainly, the problem rested with the continual progression of technology. As technology progress and the miniaturization of devices continues, devices and their materials are decreasing in value. This, in turn, places stress on the financial viability of the costs to recycle e-waste versus the profit gained from selling recovered materials and refurbished equipment. It is predicted to be a continual battle. Recycling facilities and companies will have to make strong efforts to increase the economical and operational efficiency of their facilities and recycling methods in order to keep up with the ever-reducing costs and value of equipment and materials.

Another challenge to the e-waste management effort is how to handle the transportation of e-waste across borders with other countries. There are a lot of factors that will determine whether it’s economical to transport e-waste to other countries, and what can be done to move things “towards promoting the circular economy”.

Takeaway

While nations are slowly making the right decision to establish regulations and laws for managing e-waste properly, the best thing to do about getting things moving along faster is by taking action. You can search for local organizations that properly dispose of e-waste.

In the USA, not all states have laws or regulations regarding e-waste yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any organizations or centers that might support the proper disposal and recycling of e-waste.  The problem of e-waste is not going to shrink any time soon. It’s likely to keep growing for quite some time before we finally rein it in.

If you need help with making sure that your electronics recycling is kept in compliance with e-waste regulations and all relevant laws, don’t hesitate to contact us. Securis has been providing excellence since 2003 and can help make sure you remain compliant. We also have lots of great information regarding IT asset disposal solutions.

Target Gets $7.4 Million Fine for Illegally Throwing E-Waste in the Trash

According to the Alameda County District Attorney Office, between the years of 2012 and 2016, the corporate retail giant Target was guilty of illegally dumping 2,038 items of hazardous e-waste that should’ve been properly recycled. By breaking California’s e-waste recycling laws, the state of California charged Target with a hefty fine of $7.4 million dollars.

The state of California takes its environmental laws quite seriously, and it doesn’t take lightly anyone that tries to break them, whether it’s a single, regular person, or a huge corporate entity. This isn’t the first time that Target has been slammed by e-waste fines, however. In 2011, Target was fined $22.5 million dollars because they had broken the rule. Let this be a lesson before any of you decide to throw those batteries away with your regular trash: don’t do it.

California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act

California’s Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 was created to establish regulations and infrastructure for how the state would deal with recycling e-waste. E-waste includes items such as televisions, computers, laptops, LCD screens, and any devices that contain fluorescent cathode ray tubes. Circuit boards and batteries are also included in the list. All of these e-waste products contain potentially dangerous materials that can bring harm to the environment and human beings, and so California has been making an effort to clamp down on the improper disposal of such devices.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

According to the California Government’s website, as part of their CalRecycle page, they require business and other public entities to recycle as much of their generated waste as is possible. There is also a mandatory law for commercial organic waste to be diverted from landfills and sent to composting and anaerobic digestion facilities to create biofuel and fertilizer for soil. If they can, California aims to reduce organic waste by 50 percent by the year 2020. To beat their own score, California then plans to hits 75 percent by 2025.

What’s more, a lot of these electronic parts can be repurposed and reused. This is why California created the Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003, and they made it illegal to dispose of any e-waste with regular garbage. If you have any electronics that can be sold or donated, it is encouraged so long as the equipment or device is still functional. Otherwise, e-waste must be properly disposed of.

How Should E-Waste Be Disposed Of?

E-waste should be properly disposed of by finding organizations that recover unwanted electronics. This can be done by going to the California Government’s CalRecycle page and searching for organizations near you. They can provide you the organization’s location, services, hours, and any possible charges that might be included. Other states have their own e-waste laws, but not all do. In 2017, it was said that only 25 states and Washington D.C. had electronic recycling laws.

What Does the EPA Have to Say About E-Waste?

According to the EPA’s own site, the EPA supports the United States Government’s National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship (NSES). This is a governmental plan to provide recommendations on how federal government, businesses, and all citizens should move towards achieving the goals of the Executive Order 13693, also known as the “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade”.

The NSES draws out the following goals for reaching a point of sustainability and proper management of used electronics, as described on their website: “Build incentives for design of environmentally preferable electronics and enhance science, research, and technology development in the United States”, “ensure that the federal government leads by example”, “increase safe and effective management and handling of used electronics in the United States”, “reduce harm from U.S. exports of electronics waste (e-waste) and improve the handling of used electronics in developing countries.”

Takeaway

E-waste is neither good for the environment or for your own health. It’s still not too late. With at least half of the United States now implementing e-waste recycling measures, progress has been made in bringing e-waste, as well as other waste, under control.

It’s a long road, and for the states that don’t have e-waste laws or other proper waste regulations, they have an even longer road. But even if you don’t live in California, or in a state with e-waste and other waste regulations, learning more about what you can do to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is the first step to being able to do something, so you can make a change for your community.

Looking for IT Asset Disposal Solutions? Want to learn more about your e-waste compliance regulations are in your state? Don’t hesitate to contact us! Since we started in 2003, we have been providing excellence in IT Asset Disposal. Whether it’s your electronics that need proper e-recycling or hard drives with sensitive information that need proper destruction, Securis can help!