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53 metric tons of electronic waste in the world, Zim must do its part

Science, technology and innovation have become fundamental to solving the problems that shape our planet, our people, prosperity and peace. The past few decades have seen the importance of technology in social, economic, and political spheres as well as in many other areas. Technology companies have invested considerable resources in research and development to adapt to market demands, environmental changes and ever-changing customer needs. Most ICT manufacturers launch new products every year as they seek to be competent and remain relevant in the global market; this, however, has also rendered many products obsolete as product support is revoked while manufacturers focus on promoting new in-stock products; therefore, many will reach end of life early while still functioning well.

According to the Global E-waste Monitor report for 2020 from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), in 2019, the world generated a 53.6 Metric tons of electronic waste, an average of 7.3 kg per capita. Global e-waste generation has increased by 9.2 Mt since 2014 and is expected to reach 74.7 metric tons by 2030, nearly doubling in 16 years.

Covid19 has catalyzed the need for individuals and businesses to adopt digital services that involve access to ICT gadgets and software. Many developed countries were quick to adopt digital platforms, as many were already commonplace. While for many developing countries, there is still work to be done to ensure access to these technologies.

In developing countries, access to technology is considered a luxury because necessities such as food security, education and health services take precedence. As the Covid19 pandemic has affected all nations, the need for online services for developing countries has taken center stage; however, resources allocated to computerization have always been limited, forcing nations to foster access to digital platforms with very few resources.

Access to ICT equipment in developed countries is easy and affordable through flexible payment terms and equipment upgrades, as many manufacturers have their organizations administered from these countries. There are facilities for ICT equipment upgrades if procured through defined distribution channels, where the manufacturer will take over the old version, and the customer is asked to pay a specific amount of money to get the latest model ; therefore, the manufacturer bears the cost of disposal. Warranty and service support for ICT gadgets is generally efficient in developed countries and affordable due to stable financial services and highly equipped industries.

As most developing countries have a large portion of their population living in poverty, as defined by a daily budget support of US$1.90 per person, their ability to afford ICT equipment is next to impossible. They end up accepting used gadgets from developed countries. These gadgets usually have a short lifespan, which leads to the accumulation of electronic waste.

Electronic waste cannot be disposed of in the same way as other waste such as plastic, food, etc. ; This requires special equipment that recycles electronic waste for reuse without contaminating the environment and people. In developed countries, there are companies that are paid to collect electronic waste and facilitate its disposal, which is generally expensive depending on the equipment.

Due to the frequent upgrades of electronic devices and their affordability in developed countries, many companies and individuals get rid of their electronic equipment every year; however, some equipment will be functional, but since they can afford a better model, they choose to discard or recycle it.

As disposing of waste electronic equipment is expensive, this has increased sales of refurbished equipment, as companies that collect for disposal end up looking for markets where the equipment can still be used at a price. affordable, which means reduced recycling costs.

As most countries in Africa grow, they have become the largest market for refurbished equipment from rich countries. In some cases, some of the equipment is donated to developing countries because they need to connect people at the lowest cost, but this means disposal costs have been shifted from developed countries to those who need the donations. .

In Africa, a few countries, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Africa, have set up e-waste management centers due to the costs required to set up the plant and maintain them. Developing countries are also lagging behind in legislation that can control the dumping of refurbished equipment into countries as they need access to affordable equipment for their people, many of whom live in poverty.

Zimbabwe is not spared by this sad development because indeed many raw materials used to produce electronic equipment are extracted in African countries, including Zimbabwe. However, after the production of the equipment, these countries also bear the environmental and human burden caused by improper disposal of electronic waste.

We recommend that Zimbabwe establish an internet/e-waste recycling fund, which will be used to dispose of e-waste in the country through relevant organizations and local authorities. It is also important for Zimbabwe to reassess its import laws to ensure that all refurbished ICT equipment is taxed and the revenue generated is channeled into a recycling fund, as has been done for the tax on carbon, etc

Organizations that collect e-waste/internet should be encouraged as they play a key role in protecting human health and the environment. The Internet Society of Zimbabwe is currently conducting research on Internet waste management; if you have contributions, please send an e-mail to research@isoc.org.zw

About the Author

The Internal Society of Zimbabwe (ISOZ) believes that everyone should be able to benefit from an open and reliable Internet. This value constitutes the pillars of their work.


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