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Remarks by Angela Cropper UNEP Deputy Executive Director to the National Stakeholders Workshop on E-Waste and Electronic Equipment

Nairobi, 7 September 2010 - Welcome to UNEP/UNON Headquarters; Honourable Minister John Michuki - Kenya's Minister for Environment and Mineral Resources and distinguished other guests. A warm welcome also to industry representatives from Microsoft, HP and Nokia.

I am delighted to welcome this expert gathering and distinguished group including decision makers, e-waste experts and manufacturers to this national stakeholders' workshop. E-waste is an emergent issue and one that resonates with much of society in that many people already own, or aspire to own phones, fridges, computers, their accessories and mobile appliances. Essentially, e-waste includes almost any household or business item with electronic circuitry or electrical components, with power or battery supply.

We know that the ICT and electronic industry is rapidly growing and we should welcome developments and encourage their uptake across the world, as they have the potential to play an important role in complementing infrastructure and knowledge and learning barriers, also in assisting achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Emergent Issue

As the way we conduct communications and business changes, so must our global response to both these opportunities and challenges. As much of the planet's e-waste is unaccounted for, it is difficult to know exactly how much e-waste there is. Moreover, the number and type of e-waste included in government-initiated analyses and collection programmes differs across the world. According to the European Environmental Agency, e-waste is growing faster than any other type of waste, with an annual volume close to 40 million metric tons globally.

Given the increased pace of technological development and obsolescence, a lot of these appliances have a short life-expectancy and will, sooner rather than later, require sound re-use, recycle and disposal solutions. Dumping or improper recycling of electronic waste causes serious environmental contamination, and while electronic goods are mostly used in the developed world, many end up in developing countries.

Kenya Specific

About 50 % of Kenya's computer market is estimated to be made up of second-hand computers and the country generates about 3,000 tonnes of computer associated e-waste yearly. There are severe environmental and insidious health impacts associated with poor disposal of e-waste such as open dumping in Dandora and Korogocho. UNEP has assisted in developing an Integrated Solid waste Management Strategy for Nairobi; the e-waste component has been identified in the strategy, but would need further proper treatment. Sustainable business opportunities would spur economic growth, market viability for e-services, affordable tools for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and skilled workforce. Other advantages include reduction of e-Waste disposal quantities, the release of harmful chemicals and lessening the negative health impacts and biodiversity loss.

UNEP role

UNEP takes an active interest in e-waste. From its publication released in February 2010 at a meeting of the Basel Convention prior to UNEP's Governing Council meeting in Bali, Indonesia, the report, "Recycling - from E-Waste to Resources," used data from 11 developing countries to estimate current and future e-waste generation - which includes old and dilapidated desk and laptop computers, printers, mobile phones, pagers, digital photo and music devices, refrigerators, toys and televisions. This report outlined new technologies and mechanisms which, combined with national and international policies, can transform waste into assets, creating new businesses. The report recommended that countries establish e-waste management centers of excellence, building on existing organizations working in the area of recycling and waste management. In East Africa, UNEP is working with UNIDO and other partners on a proposed e-waste recycling project.

Basel Convention

E-waste across borders can be addressed as Kenya is a signatory to the Basel Convention. For over one decade now, Kenya has had clear regulations to forestall transboundary transfer of hazardous waste. However, the country has faced challenges in the enforcement of the same, perhaps due to many factors, including capacity. The aim of the convention is to prevent the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes. The movement of the hazardous waste is regulated using Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure, where the receiving country must know what materials are being transported. However, export to non- parties is not permitted. In order to further enforce this, Parties to the Convention are expected to develop legislation to penalize illegal movement. The Basel Convention also calls for Environmentally Sound Management (ESM) of Hazardous wastes which includes minimisation of hazardous wastes to ensure availability of disposal facilities.

In 2008, Parties to the Convention adopted guidelines on collecting and refurbishing used mobile phones and the recovery and recycling their components at end-of-life, developed under the 2003 Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative (MPPI).

Solutions and Opportunities

A look at China and India reveals a thriving e-waste value chain that generates income from the waste. In Kenya, on-going initiatives by Computer for Schools Kenya , Nokia, and Safaricom are examples of recycling programmes. However, it must be recognized that even with refurbishment, there is an end-life, which must be factored in the life-cycle of these products. These are win-win situations for the country and I encourage Kenyan entrepreneurs to look into this untapped opportunity. One person's waste can be another's opportunity.

The International Panel for Sustainable Resource Development released a report in May 2010 which states that recycling metals is between two and ten times more energy efficient than smelting the metals from virgin ores.

One of the phenomena of our modern, industrial age is that increasingly metal stocks are "above ground" in structures such as buildings and ships and products from cell phones to personal computers. These 'above ground" supplies of both common and specialty metals represent an extraordinary resource not only in terms of supplies, but also the opportunity for reducing energy demand, while curbing pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions.

However, a lack of adequate recycling infrastructure for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment in most parts of the world causes total losses of copper and other valuable metals like gold, silver and palladium. The report cites palladium as an example of a precious metal which is used in car catalysts, industrial catalysts, dentistry and jewelry.

Currently recycling rates can be as high as up to 90 per cent in industrial applications. However, in electronic applications recycling rates are just between five and ten per cent, in part because less than 10 per cent of consumer cell phones are recycled properly. These kinds of metals should be high priority for salvage and recycling.

Producing metals from recycled sources has multiple Green Economy benefits when compared with producing and using primary metals from mines. These include reduced impacts on the environment including water resources and biodiversity, reduced energy requirements and cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as well as opportunity to generate new jobs.


Good luck with your objectives today. Much work has already been done and more will follow, but we must continue to move apace on this issue and if possible create regional leadership and examples of best practice.

This meeting today is an important step forward where a multi-stakeholder approach can assist in dealing with the e-waste challenge.

UNEP is following progress on this issue with interest and stands willing to assist efforts in Kenya to better manage e-waste, including the possible development of a legislative framework following the draft guidelines circulated for this meeting.

We encourage their further development, accompanied by participatory consumer education to deal with this emergent challenge and also, great opportunity.

Good luck and again, a warm welcome.