Proper E-waste Management in Rwanda
Why do we need to ensure that the future generations have the natural resources available to live an equal and better, way of life as current generations? The media regularly presents to us how wastes are threatening us and why we need to take actions to mitigate its risks for future generations.
Why is e-waste a problem on the environment and a threat to human health?
As the world’s population, urbanization, technology and industrialization are increasing, there is a significant increase in electrical and electronic equipment production to sustain people’s needs and the fast growth in technology. Small and large household appliances, electrical and electronic tools, Medical, IT and telecommunications equipment are increasing at a higher rate. When these items are nearing the end of their “useful life” (e-waste) growth, they become most pressing pollution problem worldwide due to the toxic substances that they contain which is likely to pose threats to the environment and human health. In other words, electronic equipment includes some harsh contaminants such as lead, brominated flame retardants, and the chromium, the recycling and disposal of e-waste involve having a risk to human health and the environment. Valuable components of e-waste are retrieved in some cases, and invaluable elements that are mostly environmentally hazardous are left mixed with other forms of waste, posing health and environmental risks (Fonerwa, 2016).
E-waste in Rwanda and worldwide
Rwanda the second-highest densely populated in Africa with a high population growth rate with impressively high development pace and remarkable progression where it is ranked as 38th country in the ease of doing business worldwide and the second easiest in doing business in Africa (Benjamin, 2017). The government has made a significant change and recovery after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. For the past 26 years, Rwanda has been developing in economic and social development and poverty reduction. The growth has been in all sectors and contributed to the global economy hence increase in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). This progress might result in high production of e-waste as Rwanda is among six countries that have adopted ICT plans to develop its economy and become a regional ICT hub (Rutebuka, Zhang, Pang, 2015).
According to the global e-waste monitor 2020 statistics, 53.6 million metric tons (Mt) of e-waste was generated worldwide in 2019, and it is estimated to reach 74 Mt by 2030 (Foreword UNU, ITU, and ISWA, 2020). Altogether, the demand for electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) has been increasing over the past years in Rwanda. From the survey conducted in 2015, indicated that more than 10,000 tonnes of e-waste are collected annually where 82% are from individuals, 12% from public institutions and 6% from private institutions (Fonerwa, 2015).
Proper and improper e-waste recycling
When we talk of how e-waste is managed appropriately, involves disassembling of collected materials, separate and categorize them accordingly and clean them. Items are dismantled in an environmentally friendly manner while complying to regulations governing it. Everyone should adhere to these health and safety rules and use carbon emissions control technologies (recycling facilities) that reduce the threats to human health and environmental issues of handling e-waste in an eco-friendly way (Renee, 2018).
Proper waste management (ERGP, LinkedIn)
“Many people earn a living by dismantling, repairing, refurbishing, and reselling used electrical and electronic equipment” (Renee, 2018). Even though people are doing this as their daily work, they sometimes do not wear protective clothing, and they are not aware of how dangerous are the equipment they are handling. Research has found that inhaling toxic chemicals and direct contact with hazardous e-waste materials (even in some formal e-waste recycling companies/facilities) result in increased lead levels in the blood, increase in spontaneous abortions, and decreased lung function (Lubell, 2020).
What does e-waste recycling contribute to the country’s economic development?
E-waste recycling is more than just creating a sustainable environment and protecting human health, but it has economic benefits. E-waste management companies provide employment opportunities (Green jobs) and generate revenue. In Rwanda, nearly 5,430 computers were refurbished and reused in schools (ERGP, 2020).
Laws governing e-waste in Rwanda
Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) issued the Regulation n°002 of 26/4/2018 that governs E-Waste Management in Rwanda regarding the safe disposal and recycling of end of life electrical and electronic equipment. “It reiterates that any person carrying out activities related to e-waste collection, transportation, retailing, importation, dismantling, recycling, refurbishing shall hold an appropriate license issued by the Regulatory Authority” (RURA, 2018).
What is the government of Rwanda currently doing to facilitate the proper management of e-waste?
Photo by ERGP
The government of Rwanda established an environmentally friendly state of the art facility in Bugesera Industrial Park that aims at recycling and dismantling electrical and electronic materials that are nearing their end of useful life (MINICOM, 2017). Signed the lease agreement with Enviroserve Rwanda Green Park (ERGP) to manage and operate the facility. ERGP Country General Manager stated that “Rwanda is among the few countries that have electronic policy and regulations and is the second in Africa to have a state of art e-waste recycling and dismantling facility.” So far, the number of green jobs created from the proper e-waste management in Rwanda has been increasing since the establishment of the e-waste recycling facility. Jobs are made to more than 400 people (ERGP, 2020).
ERGP the private company dedicated to electronic and electrical waste recycling, green growth, and the circular economy. It is the only licenced company that is allowed to carry out e-waste management in Rwanda. In collaboration with the government of Rwanda, Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA), RURA and the development organization GIZ Eco-Emploi program, they are helping to raise awareness among public and private institutions, NGOs and other different stakeholders by launching nationwide awareness campaign to build sustainable e-waste management in an environmentally friendly manner. The alliance between these different companies in Rwanda have started training youth and women technicians without a formal degree, intending to increase their capacity on the proper e-waste management, professional repair and refurbishment hence providing green job opportunities (Jean Marie, 2020). Nevertheless, the recycled and refurbished electronic materials, are distributed and sold to schools and other institutions to be reused, nearly 2000 refurbished computers are donated to schools, and others are sold to public and private institutions (Kovacevic, 2020).
However, some parts in the country improperly manage e-waste. The assessment conducted by the ministry of environment in Rwanda in 2015, revealed that there is lack of limited awareness on the risks associated with improper management of electrical and electronic waste materials in public and private institutions, NGOs and other civil communities (MINEMA and MINICOM, 2015). Faced with the ongoing challenge to the environment and human health regarding the fraudulent burning, improper handling and dismantling of e-waste currently being done by the informal sector and black market without any license or authorization from relevant institutions. RURA and Enviroserve Rwanda team carried out an Inspection of all probable key/big informal private dealers in E-waste and steel Scrap within Kigali City. The inspection aimed to create awareness and sustainability of these practices by identifying possible dealers/collection agents, assess the working environment and identify categories of wastes collected and all other requirements as per the RURA regulation on E-waste Management in Rwanda. The inspection found Non-compliance with RURA e-waste management regulations: Dealers/collection agents do not follow the set rules and laws regarding e-waste management while creating black markets, contaminating the environment and threatening human health (Julius, 2018).
Calling the public and private institutions, NGOs, development organizations and the general public to join the GoR and other companies to combat the challenge by mitigating carbon emissions that are threatening the human health by dropping off e-waste materials from their homes and offices to ensure the sustainable environment hence creating job opportunities, green growth and the circular economy.
Click here to take a look at the created infographics on the topic
Fonerwa (2016) REPUBLIC OF RWANDA National E-Waste Management Policy for Rwanda.
Benjamin, E., 2017. African Countries By Population Density. [online] WorldAtlas. Available at: <https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/african-countries-by-population-density.html> [Accessed 8 December 2020].
Rutebuka, E., Zhang, L. and Pang, M., 2015. [online] Available at: <https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Evariste_Rutebuka2/publication/285619528_Simulating_the_Dynamics_of_E-waste_Production_from_Mobile_Phone_Model_Development_and_Case_Study_of_Rwanda/links/569c7f0508ae6169e5628426/Simulating-the-Dynamics-of-E-waste-Production-from-Mobile-Phone-Model-Development-and-Case-Study-of-Rwanda.pdf> [Accessed 8 December 2020].
Kovacevic (2020) Rwanda setting example for electronic waste recycling | Trade 4 Dev News. Available at: https://trade4devnews.enhancedif.org/en/impact-story/rwanda-setting-example-electronic-waste-recycling [Accessed 8 December 2020]).
MINEMA and MINICOM (2015) National e-Waste Management Policy for Rwanda. Available at: https://environment.gov.rw/fileadmin/Environment_Subsector/Laws__Policies_and_Programmes/Policies/E-waste_policy_-_FINAL.pdf [Accessed 8 December 2020].
RURA (2018) Regulation__Governing_e-waste_management_in_Rwanda.
Julius, B. (2018) Inside Rwanda’s enduring battle to eliminate e-waste | The New Times | Rwanda. Available at: https://www.newtimes.co.rw/news/bid-eliminate-electronic-waste [Accessed 8 December 2020].
Renee, C., 2018. What Can We Do About The Growing E-Waste Problem?. [online] State of the Planet. Available at: <https://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2018/08/27/growing-e-waste-problem/> [Accessed 8 December 2020].
Enviroserve.rw. 2020. Enviroserve – Rwanda’S E-Waste Recycling Solution. [online] Available at: <https://enviroserve.rw/> [Accessed 8 December 2020].
Lubell, I., 2020. 5 Shocking Environmental Effects Of E-Waste. [online] Info.mayeralloys.com. Available at: <https://info.mayeralloys.com/ewaste-blog/5-shocking-environmental-effects-of-e-waste#:~:text=When%20e%2Dwaste%20is%20warmed,both%20land%20and%20sea%20animals.> [Accessed 8 December 2020].
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