- Written by Silvia Mwendia for Kenyakidz
Kenyan families are being urged to look for better ways of disposing their electrical and electronic waste in a bid to avert health hazards such as respiratory problems and heavy-metal poisoning which affects 50 per cent and 30 per cent of school children in Nairobi respectively.
One company that is trying to get the word out about effective disposal of e-waste is WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment ) Centre.
“We recycle a wide range of electrical and electronic devices such as fridges, , iron boxes, computers, phones both mobile and landline and batteries among many others,” said Seth Munyambu, manager at WEEE Centre.
As of 2014, Kenya generated e-waste between one and three kilograms per inhabitant. This is according to The Global E-waste Monitor report by the United Nations University. Seeing that the country’s population at the time approximately stood at 42m, then Kenya had been generated around 42000t to 126000t of e-waste.
E-waste in Kenya has been on the rise and families have had a role to play thanks to mobile penetration in the country. According to the World Bank, Kenyan households on an average own 2.4 mobile phones and 93 per cent of homes in the country own a mobile phone.
Technology is fast changing which means that people are often buying new phones. It is not the purchase that is the problem however, but how they are disposed.
“Most people give their old phones to someone else or sold into the juakali sector. One way or another though, it enters the Dandora dump site as general waste,” said Seth.
When electrical and electronic waste get into landfills, it poses health hazards for those living near dump sites thanks to the toxic chemicals contained in the electrical and electronic equipment. Children are most at risk because they are still developing and those in Kenya have even been reported to suffer from respiratory problems and heavy metal-poisoning at rates of 50 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.
It is for these reasons that Seth advises families t dispose of their e-waste in a responsible manner.
“Kenyan families should take their e-waste to recycling companies whereby they are assured that the equipment will be separated and recycled in a manner that it is not harmful to the environment,” he said.
The first step when it comes to recycling e-waste is to dismantle the equipment and separate the various components.
“At WEEE Centre, we take apart the whole device and group the components which usually are heavy metals, plastic, metal and glass,” said Seth.
The heavy metals and glass are both shipped to Europe while the plastic and metal are sold to local companies that deal in the recycling of these items.
“We ship off the heavy metals to Europe because it does not make economic sense to keep them in the country. The machinery required to recycle the heavy metals is quite expensive and Kenya does not produce enough e-waste for us to break even,” said Seth.
As for the glass, it is because it also has lead content which manufacturers in the country are not willing to buy due to its hazardous nature. It therefore makes more sense to ship it off.
In order to dispose of the electrical and electronic devices, WEEE Centre is willing to organise a pick-up at one’s house or one can always take them to their premises in Embakasi. At the moment WEEE Centre does not offer any incentive for those who bring their e-waste but they are thinking about introducing one.