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Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has urged citizens to embrace green ICTs that have minimal impact on the environment.

This comes amid a rise in numbers of people who are joining the information society and digital economy, according to the 2020 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Global E-waste Monitor report.

E-Waste is largely caused by urbanisation, and industrialisation in many developing countries leading to growing amounts of electrical and electronic equipment. 

That report notes that toxic and hazardous substances such as mercury, brominated flame-retardants or chloroflurocarbons are found in many types of electronic equipment and pose severe risk to human health and the environment if not handled in an environmentally sound manner.

Ngabo Nankonde, a ZICTA corporate communications manager, told Biztech Africa that failure to properly dispose of ICT equipment could adversely affect  the environment. “We encourage the adoption of green ICTs and technologies as well as computing practices with minimal or no impact on the environment,” she said.

In 2016, ZICITA signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Zambia Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA) to manage e-waste. “During the 2020 World Environment Month of June, the two institutions collaborated with e-waste recyclers, TCH e-waste and Geocycle, to collect e-waste from one of the cement manufacturing companies in Lusaka and a similar undertaking is being planned in the Copperbelt province,” said Nankonde. 

Irene Lungu Chipili, a ZEMA corporate affairs manager, told Biztech Africa that they aimed to create a robust recycling programme and create entrepreneurship opportunities for the youth. 

“Ultimately, this would contribute to a thriving circular economic model where waste is not seen as trash but cash. Achieving this goal would eventually support our objective of a sustainably managed environment in Zambia,” she said. According to ZICTA 2018 National ICT Survey, 48.9 % of all households in Zambia had disposed of some electronic or electrical items. 

The survey also indicated that mobile phones represented the highest volume of disposed e- waste at 34.8%, followed by radio at 17.4% and television at 10.1%. When it comes to how people disposed of waste, 20.2% of individuals put away electrical or electronic waste, 14.3% gave away their devices while individuals who either threw away their e-waste in a landfill or in a trash accounted for 11.4% and 6.3% respectively.

Although the survey estimated that 83.4 % of all the individuals aged 10 years and above owned a mobile device, only 10 % of the same segment of the population were aware of the risk associated with e-waste. A record 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of e-waste–discarded products with a battery or plug such as computers and mobile phones-was generated worldwide in 2019 with Africa having 2.9 Mt, according to the 2020 ITU Global E-waste Monitor report.

The new report also predicts global e-waste will reach 74 Mt by 2030, almost double the 2014 figure, fuelled by higher electric and electronic consumption rates, shorter lifecycle of electronic gadgets and limited repair options. In 2019, only 17.4 % of e-waste was officially documented as formally collected and recycled. 

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