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‘Lax restrictions responsible for e-waste dumps’

By Kehinde Olatunji
16 November 2021   |   2:58 am
Experts have lamented that Nigeria has been turned to a dumpsite for all manner of electronic junks, as a result of lax environmental restrictions that have rendered the economy poor.

[FILES] E-waste. Photo: DUTABLE

Experts have lamented that Nigeria has been turned to a dumpsite for all manner of electronic junks, as a result of lax environmental restrictions that have rendered the economy poor.

They noted that it was worrisome that the health hazards resulting from the accumulation of e-waste transcends the labourers working with the electronic devices.

This was disclosed at the joint IUPAC chemrawn xxii e-waste in Africa conference and the 44th yearly international conference of Chemical Society of Nigeria tagged: “Global Electrical and Electronics Waste: Health Hazards for Africa,” held in Lagos.

Specifically, CSN President, Professor Moses Chendo noted that growth in electrical and electronics equipment (EEE) production and consumption has been exponential in the last two decades.

He noted that this has been a result of the rapid changes in equipment features and capabilities, a decrease in prices, and the growth in Internet use.

“This creates a large volume of the waste stream of obsolete electrical and electronics devices (e-waste) in developed countries. There is a high level of transboundary movement of these devices as secondhand electronic equipment into developing countries in an attempt to bridge the digital divide. The past decade has witnessed a phenomenal advancement in ICT in Nigeria, most of which rely on imported second-hand devices.”

He noted that more than 25 per cent of used electrical and electronic equipment imported into Nigeria is dead on arrival.

“According to ILO, up to 100,000 people work in the informal waste-recycling sector in Nigeria. They collect and dismantle electronics by hand to reclaim components that can be sold. These people are in danger of direct chemical poisoning leading to organ dysfunction, or disorders that are an indirect result of exposure to hazardous chemicals.”

On his part, LOC Chair, Prince Jay Oghifo stated that Africa was selected for the conference because many African countries carry an enormous health and environmental burden due to inappropriate handling of e-waste pollution arriving legally and illegally, noting that the consequences are particularly severe in Nigeria, and Nigeria was therefore selected as the host country.

He stated that fundamental to a sustainable solution will be to tackle the fact that current practices and the illegal trade in e-waste business provide economic stimulus for the continent therefore implementing a high-tech, capital-intensive recycling process may not be appropriate (though desirable) in every country or region as cheap, safe.

Oghifo stated that a simple processing method for introduction into the informal sector is currently lacking; hence, the necessity to create a financial incentive for recyclers operating in the informal sector to deliver recovered parts to central collection sites rather than process them themselves.

“Effective regulation must be combined with incentives for recyclers in the informal sector not to engage in destructive processes. Multidisciplinary solutions are therefore vital in addition to technical solutions, as is addressing the underlying social inequities inherent in the e-waste business.

“Recycling operations in the informal sector of the economy enable employment for hundreds of thousands of people in poverty. A possible entry point to address their negative impacts is to address occupational risks, targeting poverty as the root cause of hazardous work and, in the process, developing decent working conditions.”

He added that more generally, solutions to the global e-waste problem involve awareness-raising among both consumers and e-waste recyclers in the informal economy, integration of the informal sector with the formal, creating green jobs, enforcing legislation and labour standards, and eliminating practices, which are harmful to human health and the environment.

“It is also imperative to target electrical and electronics manufacturers by introducing Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation and encouraging initial designs to be green, long-lived, upgradeable and built for recycling.”