Tech stakeholders and authorities in the region are worried that rising e-waste could bring the unintended health problems to people as items are disposed of in local dumping sites.

At a regional workshop on sustainable management for e-waste, stakeholders in the information communication and technology (ICT) sector heard that there are insufficient facilities to ensure safe disposal of obsolete electronic gadgets, making them a serious environmental concern.

“There are a few e-waste collectors or companies engaged in collecting the used components in local communities in EAC member states with Tanzania and Kenya taking the lead,” said East African Communication Organisation (EACO) Chairperson Juma Osoro, an autonomous entity of the regional bloc that brings together national ICT regulators, operators and services providers.

E-Waste problem

Kenya and Tanzania have three centres for e-waste collection while Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi have one each. South Sudan has none.

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However, these are far from sufficient in dealing with the rising quantity.

Across EAC, it’s estimated that about 35,000 metric tonnes of obsolete ICT items have been disposed of, according to the EACO which is headquartered in Kigali.

Globally, the e-waste problem is growing. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says 50 million tonnes are churned out from expired kitchen appliances, mobile phones, computers, TVs and other electrical and electronic tools. ITU says e-waste management centres can help with re-use of specific parts of expired gadgets, reducing waste.

A workshop at TileGreen in Egypt’s Ashir min Ramadan

A workshop at TileGreen in Egypt’s Ashir min Ramadan industrial city where plastic waste is recycled into eco-friendly interlocking tiles used in outdoor walkways. PHOTO | AHMED HASAN | AFP

Growing problem

Tanzania collects between 35 and 51 tonnes of obsolete ICT components every year for manual dismantling by companies licensed by the National Environmental Management Council.

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EACO Executive Secretary Ally Simba noted that there has been an increase of these obsolete gadgets in Tanzania from 2,000 tonnes in 1998 to approximately 35,000 tonnes in 2022.

Last week, Tanzania opened an e-waste facility in Kisarawe District, some 32 kilometres from Dar es Salaam. The facility is to be run by Chilambo General Trade Company Ltd.

Delegates at the workshop organised by EACO visited the firm to see how old car batteries, TV sets, desktop computers and fridges are dismantled to extract parts that can be re-used.  According to EACO Managing Director Gideon Chilambo, the firm collects aluminium wiring, gold and copper wires and exports them for recycling.

The workshop organised by EACO where stakeholders including tech and environmental regulators gathered in Dar es Salaam to share knowledge on minimising negative effects of e-waste on local communities.

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