Tuesday, January 27, 2009
eWaste recycling in South Africa
eWASA, the eWaste Association of South Africa, is an organisation concerned with the handling of eWaste and represents the various industry stakeholders (like eWaste recyclers and disposers). Their website provides useful information about where to recycle your eWaste and how the eWaste recycling process works. They also have a really fascinating (and distrubing) list of hazardous substances and what items those substances are contained in. I recommend that everybody read that list (compulsory reading for engineers and product developers).
Refurbishing, reuse and extending the life–cycle of electronic products is an important (and preferable) way to reduce eWaste and the hazards associated with recycling and disposing of these products.
eWaste recycling is expensive and the costs are not necessarily covered by the resale of recovered materials. eWASA would like to introduce an advanced recycling fee (ARF) for products which will eventually become a part of the eWaste stream. This fee will be collected by the supplier at the time of sale and used to fund end–of–life recyling. Exactly how the ARF will be collected and distributed is not yet clear. Will certain items, such as CRTs, attract a higher ARF due to greater recycling costs? We will have to wait and see.
South Africa currently has no legal framework which deals specifically with eWaste, and unlike the EU's RoHS directive, we have no laws to govern the materials used in the products that we make. I have been quite surprised in my dealings with manufacturers of printed circuit boards and assembly houses that they even still offer leaded products (because people are still using them). There are many benefits in removing these hazardous substances from your product and any issues with the alternative lead–free options have already been resolved. It is our responsibility as designers to remove these substances from our products. South Africa should introduce legislation to govern the use of hazardous materials so that we can avoid future health crises.
We need more people to be aware of, and start recycling eWaste. Fortunately Makro and Fujitsu–Siemens have partnered together with an eWaste recycler, Desco Electronic Recyclers, and begun providing eWaste collection bins in some of their stores. This will help to create awareness of how to correctly handle and recycle eWaste. eWASA's website has a full list of eWaste collection points in South Africa.
Please design and recycle wisely – it is good for you, me, and our environment.
Photo courtesty of Stephen Bullivant, licensed under a creative commons license.