Lack of policy hinders e-waste management

By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana

Authorities and concerned individuals in the e-waste business have decried the lack of policies, standards and regulatory instruments in the sector.  Speaking during an e-waste forum recently Mphoeng Tamasiga, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations and Strategy) of the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA), said ignorance and lack of laws were bad for the sector.  

“Electrical and Electronic waste is currently regarded as the largest growing waste stream, posing the most diverse challenges, including environmental, economic and social aspects because of its hazardous and complex nature.  These complexities are compounded in most cases by a general lack of awareness and or legislation on the matter,” he explained.

The term WEEE “(e-Waste)" is generally applied to consumer electronic devices and gadgets that are near or at the end of its immediate useful life. These include discarded or obsolete cell phones, Televisions, computers.

“In 1998 when the waste management Act was promulgated, issues of E-Waste had not assumed the magnitude that we are now experiencing and hence were not given much attention in the legislation,” added Waste Department representative.

The current scenario is that few companies in the private sector and in the informal sector are salvaging some components from electronic equipment to for reuse and derive value from them.

As a government initiative to intervene in the management of waste, the Department of Waste Management and Pollution Control (DWMPC) has recognised the gaps and deficiencies in the current legislation to adequately address contemporary issues of waste management and pollution control in the country.

“The department is currently at the initial tender process to engage a consultancy to develop an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Policy to address the shortcomings and Gaps in the existing waste management legislation including the sound management of E-Waste. Funds have been secured for this exercise. This policy will pave way for the development of an overarching legislation that will address waste management issues holistically.”

Botswana is a member and signatory to a number of conventions and resolutions including but not limited to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); United Nations Development Programme which are concerned about the eminent problem of electronic waste management.

“The ITU has made specific recommendations to combat the e-waste disposal problem, one of which is: ‘The creation of a universal charger for laptops and other portable devices in order to reduce waste’.   The ITU reckons that, this recommendation and others, if adopted by the industry, will ensure a decrease of more than 300 000 tonnes of e-waste annually. It is therefore imperative that as a country that utilises such electronics, and, consequently produce e-waste, measures for the safe disposal of such are developed, codified and applied,” said Tamasiga. 

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