DESPITE the fact that approximately 95% of e-waste can be recycled, recovered or treated and beneficiated, e-recycling is not high on South African’s agenda.
This according to Patricia Schröder, Vice-Chair of the Central branch of the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA).
International e-Waste Day took place on 14 October and this year’s focus was the role of consumers in improving rates of re-use and recycling.
“Local recycling rates are very low and it’s a major problem,” Schröder said. “For example, only between 2% and 2.5% of waste lighting, and between 10% and 12% of other waste electrical and electronic equipment is recycled.”
The most common forms of e-waste include small domestic appliances, household portable batteries, lighting, and IT and communication equipment and consumables, such as printer cartridges.
“Big manufacturers were not obligated to play their part voluntarily. But in May this year, the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations were published. It makes the manufactures and producers responsible for the end-of-life management of their products.”
The new regulations will be implementable from 5 November 2021. According to Schröder, this will be a starting point to see how effective these regulations will be to improve collection and recycling rates.
“Producers must sign up by before 4 November 2021 to one of the various existing industry Producer Responsibility Organisations (PRO’s) to become compliant and take responsibility for their products’ end-of-life management. This will also drive consumer awareness, environmental improvement, innovation, job and skills creation among many other benefits.”
She added that the IWMSA can assist companies with information on becoming compliant with the EPR regulations
Tips to cut e-waste
“Avoid impulse buying of electronic products. Ask yourself: ‘Do I really need this item?’,” Schröder said. She recommended buying items that are recyclable and checking the labelling.
“Repair and re-use all items to extend the lifespan of the product. At the end of the lifespan or when the product is not required any longer, ensure that you drop off your e-waste at collection sites where available; or find a Department of Environmental Affairs-legally compliant, licensed recycling facility for environmentally sound management.”
She said businesses should also insist on compliance documentation for traceability and auditing purposes. “If these services are contracted out, ensure that your contractors are following the correct chain of custody for compliance.”
She warned buyers not to be tempted by illicit unlicensed traders or companies that pay a small fee for the items and claim to recycle them.
“All they do is pick out the valuable fractions with negative environmental impacts to sell to the highest bidder – like scrap dealers or illegal or unethical e-waste dealers – and the balance is then illegally discarded with general waste.
“And don’t support organisations that charge you to “smash” your e-waste in a room to vent your frustrations. These items are usually illegally discarded.”