E waste raises concerns in Kenya

September 4, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 4- The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), has raised concerns over the rising level of Electronic waste in the country and termed it a serious problem.

The Director of Compliance and Enforcement, Benjamin Langwen said on Friday that according to the United Nations Environment Programme, about 17,500 tonnes of E-waste is generated in the country annually.

"These figures are far much below, they could be even less by almost ten times,"Mr Langwen said.

In an interview with Capital News, he said that E -waste has become an issue of concern because of the rapid industrialization, revolving technology and high population growth.

"I picked on an item like mobile phones where it\’s being said that the waste that is coming out of the mobile phones is about 150 tonnes a year. But if the subscribers are about 20 million and you picked on a mobile which is about 400 grammes and the cells are about 30-50 grammes, you will find that that figure is less by almost ten times," he said.

He was of the opinion that manufacturers of these products should take the greatest responsibility on E-waste management because electronic waste contains very toxic substances which if released to the environment without proper control can affect human health and environment.

"We wouldn\’t be having this problem if the private sector was fully involved. Like in the steel industry we don\’t have a problem, and we also don\’t have a problem with scrap metal," he said.

"So the disposal mechanism all lies in recovery of the precious metals and all other substances that are in E-waste and this requires investment and it\’s not going to be done by government, it has to be done by the private sector."

The government through NEMA in partnership with other stakeholders including Microsoft and HP has formulated draft guidelines on E- waste management which should be ready for use by the end of the year.

"These guidelines are supposed to assist all the stakeholders to manage E- waste and will form a basis of formulating effective regulations on E-waste," Mr Langwen said.

"Guidelines are not enforceable but beginning next month we are going to start formulating regulations which will be anchored on the solid waste management regulations that we already have and with regulations we can enforce them," he explained.

E-waste is unwanted electronic goods such as computers and mobile phones. Mr Langwen said that in Kenya the highest number of E-waste came from refrigerators.

If E-waste is not disposed or recycled carefully, it could cause health problems and environmental contamination from component toxic materials such as lead and mercury.



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