The current ways of e-waste disposal may soon turn into crisis if better solutions are not urgently found to counter the problem.
Botswana Communication Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) Deputy CEO Mphoeng Tamasiga made the warning on Thursday during a workshop on e-waste management organised by the authority. E-waste are electronic equipment or products that have become obsolete due to advanced technology or the products nearing the end of their usual life.
In the era of information characterised by the use of various kinds of ICTs, Tamasiga said many of electronic communications equipment have a relatively short lifespan and such raises the question of what happens to those gadgets that no longer serve their purpose.
According to Tamasiga, the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Global Partnership on Waste Management (GPWM) initiative indicates that the life span of computers has dropped in developed countries from six years in 1997 to just two years by 2005 while mobile phones have a lifespan of even less than two years.
Tamasiga said e-waste cannot be treated like any other kind of waste because it contains hazardous substances such as heavy metals like mercury and lead. While in most cases the gadgets no longer in use are usually discarded, Tamasiga said the fact is, they can either be reused, refurbished or simply recycled.
Electrical and electronic waste is currently regarded as the largest growing waste stream, posing most diverse challenges which include environmental, economic and social aspects due to its hazardous and complex nature.
“These complexities are compounded in most cases by a general lack of awareness and or legislation,” he said.
Being a member of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other conventions that are concerned about the problem of electronic waste management, Tamasiga said as a country that utilises electronics and produce e-waste, it is imperative that measures for the safe disposal of such are developed and applied.
ITU is said to have made several recommendations to combat e-waste, one of which being the creation of universal charger for laptops and other portable devices with a view of reducing waste. Tamasiga said the ITU reckons that, if adopted, this recommendation and others will ensure a decrease of more than 300 000 tonnes of e-waste annually.
Frank Molaletsi from the Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control (DWMPC) reckoned that e-waste is an emerging issue, and the National Waste Management Strategy does not address the issue. He suggested that recovery of useful components from electronic equipment should be promoted and with engaging the private sector in the recovery and recycling of the waste increased.
“In 1998 when the waste management Act was promulgated, issues of e-Waste had not assumed the magnitude that we are now experiencing and hence were not given much attention in the legislation,” Molaletsi said.
Molaletsi said his department has recognised the gaps and deficiencies in the current legislation to adequately address contemporary issues of waste management and pollution control in the country. As a result, DWMPC is currently at the initial tender process to engage a consultant to develop an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Policy to address the shortcomings and gaps in the existing waste management legislation including the sound management of e-waste.
The policy, he said, will pave way for the development of a legislation that will address issues of e-waste management.