Global trends have spawned an almost insatiable appetite for electronic devices.
In the quest to remain fashionable and up-to-date, consumers of electronic goods keep upgrading from one gadget to the other, leaving behind a trail of e-waste that is a threat to a clean thriving environmental.
It is because of this worrying trend that players in the communications sector have started devising ingenious ways to manage the e-waste that comes from the products they retail.
It is also because of this trend that Safaricom has partnered with Eldoret Polytechnic to establish an e-waste collection center at the institution to serve the wider North Rift region and its environs.
“We are keen on this initiative because we are a contributor to e-waste,” said Mercy Ndegwa, Safaricom’s Head of Regulatory and Public Policy, during the announcement of the partnership on January 31. “We are taking an initiative to partner with organisations and educate the public and our consumers on how to manage and eradicate any problems that might arise from e-waste. We are taking early action.”
‘E-waste’ is a term used to refer to electronic equipment that has been discarded without the intent of re-use. It is also referred to as e-scrap in some parts of the world, and includes a wide range of powered products.
A 2014 report by the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability put the global quantity of e-waste generation at around 41.8 metric tonnes. In Africa, the total e-waste generation was 1.9 metric tonnes.
The report says that only Cameroon and Nigeria have enforced national e-waste related legislation, while Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya still have laws pending approval.
The top three African countries with the highest e-waste generation are Egypt (0.37 MT), South Africa (0.35 MT) and Nigeria (0.22 MT).
According to the 2014 report, most of the global e-waste (16 MT) was generated in Asia. This translated to 3.7 kilogrammes for each inhabitant.
Kenya’s amounts may not be as high, but with conservative estimates showing that over 20 million people in the country use electronic devices such as mobile phones, televisions or radios, we too will soon bear the burden of e-waste.
Studies show that most electronic devices have a mixture of toxic components that can harm the environment if not properly disposed of.
“There is a great need today to address environmental management,” said Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno during the launch.”
“A few years ago nobody cared much about the environment when buying gadgets, but with the changes in environment created by advances in technology, matters of environment are more critical today than at any other time in history,” Daniel Chemno
Although the centre will primarily serve as an e-waste collection facility, it will also address other needs that are aligned with its core function of being a learning institution.
“We will go a step further and use the waste to teach students how to dismantle key components of the devices,” said Tom Osili, Director of Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment at the institution. “This will give them the much-needed hands-on experience. We will use this centre as a national collection facility for the government-sponsored laptops programme.”
Safaricom has also established e-waste drop-off centres at its retail shops countrywide as part of its efforts to conserve the environment, flying on the wings of the wisdom that a stitch in time saves nine. It’s paying off.
In 2016, Safaricom collected 430 tonnes of electronic-waste, equivalent to 78 adult African elephants.
The firm’s CEO Bob Collymore says that it is part of the company’s efforts to build a sustainable business and an indication that Safaricom is intrinsically tied to the Kenyan economy.