e-Waste – The Crisis of the Digital Age

The world has become reliant on technology. The reduced production cost of electronic products together with the world’s insatiable appetite for the latest electronic devices has resulted in the world’s fastest-growing waste stream – electronic and electrical waste, commonly known as “e-waste”. Essentially, e-waste is anything that operated on an electrical current prior to end-of-life, with electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) defined as anything that contains circuitry or electrical components with either a battery or power supply. The e-waste category is therefore broad and includes items such as fridges, TV’s, printers and printer cartridges, microwave ovens and washing machines to name but a few.

According to the UN’s Global E-Waste Monitor 2020, a record 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste was generated globally in 2019. The report predicts that global e-waste will increase to 74 million metric tons by 2030, doubling 2019’s figures in only 16 years.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) estimates that e-waste comprises approximately 5% to 8% of South Africa’s municipal solid waste and is growing at a rate three times faster than any other form of waste. This puts immense pressure on municipal landfill sites, many of which have closed or are near closure due to zero capacity. The e-Waste Association of South Africa (EWASA) states that each South African produces 6.2 kgs of e-waste per year. If this figure is accurate, South Africa generates a whopping 370 000 tons of e-waste each year. It is estimated that only 12% of this total is recycled annually.

E-waste is highly problematic due to the fact that the components that make up electronic devices are hazardous substances, meaning that e-waste is classified as hazardous waste. The inappropriate handling and disposal of e-waste can cause significant harmful impacts to human health as well as the environment. The leaching of harmful e-waste substances into groundwater whilst sitting in landfill is of great concern, while people can be exposed to the harmful effects of carcinogens and other volatile organic compounds in electrical equipment if inappropriately handled. The flip side of this is that many components of e-waste are recyclable and indeed, valuable, providing an opportunity for economic and social benefit.

The Waste Classification and Management Regulations specified under the National Environmental Management: Waste Act (Act 59 of 2008) prohibits the disposal of e-waste in general landfill sites from August 2021. The onus is therefore on consumers to ensure that they responsibly dispose of their e-waste. Green Office, together with the NPO Green ABLE, will ensure that your e-waste is responsibly disposed of. Green ABLE will accept all small office e-waste items such as printers, cell phones, laptops, PC’s, servers and printer cartridges for recycling, and disposal to hazardous landfill for items where recycling is not possible. The only cost to you is the delivery of your e-waste to our premises.

 

Be responsible for your e-waste by contacting us today!

 

     

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