That Nigeria is facing an electronic waste crisis is no longer a debate, however, what remains a key topic for discuss are solutions and ways by which the e-waste crisis can be handled.
A report by the United Nations University suggests that about 41.8 million tons of e-waste was generated worldwide. In 2014, that figure was expected to grow to 50 million by the year 2018.
What is sad about this statistics is that the recycling rates of e-waste have been extremely low.
As of 2012, a study cited by The Atlantic stated that only a little over 29 percent of tech was reused, thus begging the question, ‘what becomes of the remaining 70 or 71 percent?’
The answer is not far fetched; the practice is almost the same everywhere (especially in Africa), the gross majority of e-waste are improperly handled, burnt and used for landfills.
It is in burning these e-wastes and using them as landfills that a grave danger is posed to our soil, the atmosphere, the environment in general and invariably, our health.
This is so because most of the techs we use contain toxic materials such as lead and zinc. These elements contaminate groundwater and soil affecting crops, humans and animals alike; thus, the increase in cases of lung cancer and neurological issues.
With all these points outlined, one begins to ask the question what can a nation like Nigeria which has become a dumping ground for e-waste do to tackle the crisis at hand.
Below are four (4) major ways by which Nigeria can successfully tackle the e-waste crisis which poses great threat to health and economic growth.
- Show that cash can be made from trash
When broken down into their components, e-wastes can be very valuable. There are those who have realised that good cash can be made from what many others call thrash.
David Nderitu – a young man from Kenyan is one of those harvesting from e-waste in his country. As at 2014, David began making jewellery from e-waste.
This young visionary used to hand-make 60 pairs of earrings in 15 days, that was about four years ago, one can only wonder how many he makes now.
According to the Daily Nation, 4-years ago, the pieces David makes would sell for up to £2.10 locally or more than three times that abroad. Sponsors from America’s Penn State University now buy his work in bulk.
If the Nigerian people can find the value in e-waste, then we would know how to properly handle them as to add positively to the economy and not to become harmful to the environment and the people themselves.
- Upgrade the informal sector
Informal handling of e-waste poses great danger to the informal handlers and to everyone in general. E-waste has components that contain toxins and in Nigeria the major process used by the informal handlers is burning, but by openly burning these e-wastes, the air is infiltrated, our lungs get infected, our health is jeopardized.
The activities of the informal handlers must be put to check, and upgraded. It is necessary that the government acts, making and enforcing policies that would ensure e-wastes in Nigeria is handled in the most professional manner and under the highest of industrial and environmental standards.
Stricter measures must be put in place to ensure that the extraction of valuables and the recycling of e-waste follows all regulations that ensures the safety first of those handling the materials and then the general public.
- Synergize regulatory bodies and enact e-waste collection policies
The Nigerian government needs to do more in striking a synergy between the regulatory bodies that oversee environmental issues within the country. The synergy goes beyond inter-government agency interactions, it spans into the cooperation between the government agencies and the handlers, as well as the general public.
If the government works friction free with the professional handlers in the country, it will be way easier to deal with the crisis on ground. For instance, legislations have to be put in place to encourage corporate bodies to engage the services of responsible handlers for the disposal of their e-wastes and data destruction. This is key especially because of the data destruction process, if not properly destroyed corporate or private information might get into the wrong hands.
If private data or information from corporate organisations get into the hands of hackers, they could be linked to the government and if that be the case, then the nation would be left vulnerable, a security breach that would leave the nation susceptible to attacks.
- Enlighten the people on the dangers of e-waste and how to curb them
As shocking as it may sound in this time and age, a great majority of Nigerians know little or nothing about the e-waste crisis in the country, across the continent and all over the world. There are millions that have no idea about the dangers inherent the improper disposal of e-waste and how they can be handled properly, thus, enlightenment becomes very necessary.
E-waste awareness campaigns should be planned and executed in various communities across the nation. These campaigns can be carried out by the government, through the regulatory bodies, or by the professional handlers on ground. It would be even more engaging if the government can partner with the handlers and corporate organizations in the country to organize these e-waste enlightenment campaigns.
If the people become very aware of the dangers posed by e-waste and are informed about the solutions available for the challenges currently being faced, the general public would then work closely with the appropriate authorities to see that their e-wastes are disposed of in the most professional manner, thereby reducing the magnitude of e-waste that goes to landfills and invariable helping to solve the crisis on ground.
Figures obtained from the United Nations at the end of 2017, show that the amount of e-waste generated across the world has reached an annual high of 43million tons, sadly, only 8.6million of this is being recycled, the others go to landfill. It is predicted that by 2121 these stats will rise up to an estimate of 55.2million. Africa (especially Nigeria), gets much of the developed world’s waste electronics, if we do not take necessary actions, we might never be able to survive the catastrophic effect.