An introduction to E-Waste
The IT industry is one of the world’s fastest growing industries. Greater access to computers is helping to create an information society where individuals and companies are becoming increasingly connected at a global scale. However, despite its many benefits, the growth of the IT industry has led to a substantial increase in the generation of e-waste.
According to the UN, 200 million computers and 500 million mobile phones reached their end of life in 2008 alone. As newly industrialised countries such as China and India become increasingly equipped in electrical and electronic products, the generation of e-waste is likely to increase. This is particularly of concern as the majority of e-waste is sent to landfill with little recycled and even less reused. In 2009, just 13% of the 50 million tonnes produced e-waste was recycled.
This industry is characterised by short lifecycles and rapid obsolescence resulting in waste being generated at a rapid rate, much of which ends up in a landfill. Furthermore, poor design of equipment means upgrading is often difficult and costly making simply replacing working equipment a more viable option. This is particularly pertinent due to the high material and energy cost in the production of equipment.
As a result, the adequate treatment of unwanted equipment makes sense from both an environmental and economic perspective. The loss of valuable materials contained within computers is a wasted opportunity. For example, a typical PC includes rare and valuable materials such as gold and platinum. Likewise the dumping of e-waste has environmental and health ramifications as many of the materials used to produce a computer are toxic, such as lead. Other materials such as barium and PVC also have a variety of health impacts.
E-waste can be seen as one of the greatest challenges facing the IT industry due to its impacts on the environment and human health as well as the sheer scale of the problem, which is exacerbated by the difficulty of upgrading equipment. The need to reduce, reuse and recycle is becoming an ever more apparent issue.
Computer Aid is involved in advocacy work regarding this vital issue to create awareness and facilitate change. This page highlights just some of the advocacy work Computer Aid is doing on this issue.
Computer Aid believes every country should develop the operational capacity to treat e-waste in ways that are safe for people and planet, and actively promotes this belief through its advocacy work.
The WEEE Centre Nairobi, Kenya
As part of Computer Aid’s ongoing work into preventing and raising awareness of the harmful environmental impacts of end-of-life ICT equipment, we have formed a strategic partnership with the WEEE Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.
The WEEE Centre is an operation managed by our longstanding partners Computer for Schools Kenya and provides e-waste management for Kenya and East Africa.
Combining the WEEE Centre’s experience in e-waste management with Computer Aid’s extensive network of contacts across Africa, we hope will enable the development and creation of e-waste recycling facilities in many more African countries that currently don’t benefit from having recycling centres
The inaugural training to come out of this partnership is titled a “A Practical Application to Identification and Processing of E-Waste”. The course is designed for people working in the field of ICT, development professionals, environmental advocates and others who are interested in learning the basics about e-waste and the practical steps that can be taken to address it.
Participants will be equipped with the frame of reference to trace the problem of e-waste from the global perspective to their home countries, and empowered to take action. The course details how the WEEE Centre was established and what people can do to advocate for similar facilities, e-waste policy and legislative frameworks that will address this serious environmental hazard. For more information about the course and for details on how to register please click here
Balkans E-Waste Management Advocacy Network - BEWMAN
Computer Aid has worked alongside the Balkans E-waste Management Advocacy Network - BEWMAN to tackle the e-waste problem in the West Balkans through improved policy and practice across the region. The network is funded by the European Union. Through this collaboration we have published a guide on how to conduct e-waste and electronics advocacy which was presented on the 30th September 2011 at the UN’s Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi, Kenya.
We hope the 52 page comprehensive guide will provide civil society actors with the information and tools required to push for change to minimise the environmental, health and social impacts of electronics and e-waste. To download this guide and to access other useful materials please see the section below.
Computer Aid is a strong advocate for the sustainable use of EEE and the organisation continues to create awareness in the UK about the environmental importance of re-use over recycling.
Computer Aid has actively lobbied the UK government to put a stop to the dumping of the UK’s e-waste in developing countries which we continue to raise awareness of.
Below are links to Computer Aid's first five special reports on the theme of ICTs and the Environment.
It is important for all individuals and businesses to consider the end of life situation of their ICT products. Here are some critical questions that need to be asked before selecting an ICT disposal partner.
E-Waste Advocacy Guide
Computer Aid's E-Waste Advocacy Guide is available for anybody to download; it has been designed to introduce both the concept of advocacy and the steps required, to develop an effective campaign for positive change in policy and practice in the area of electronics and e-waste. It contains practical information for communication to politicians, the media and the general public and details the e-waste lobbying strategies of other civil society organisations in the EU. The guide is currently available in six languages; English, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, Albanian and Bulgarian.
We have produced a practical overview of EU and UK WEEE Legislation which you will find here.
We also occassionally blog about changes in the WEEE legislation and issues relating to e-waste. Click here to access our blog.
Here are some links to our guides and those from external websites that you may find useful in understanding WEEE legislation:EU's WEEE Webiste, including relevant legislation. Our overview of how the EU legislative process works and where we are in that process in recasting the WEEE Directive. For the UK government’s guides to the 2007 and 2009 Regulations. The Environment Agency for England & Wales' WEEEE website.
Alongside Computer Aid's e-waste advocacy work, we seek to share the best information that we have on all existing safe computer recycling facilities. We have started an interactive map where you can find the location of recycling facilities nearest you.
The interactive map is a collaborative project; as formal recycling facilities are scarce in developing countries we need help in gathering information. Facilities listed on this map are not necessarily endorsed by Computer Aid and the organisation cannot vouch for their environmental credentials, nonetheless it is important that we seek to identify where it is safe to dispose of used electronic equipment.
If you would like to contribute to this project please email email@example.com.
View Computer Recycling Facilities in a larger map