E-wastes: Nigeria misses out in $57bn recycling gains

…461,000 tonnes generated in 2019

Lack of a formal and coordinated e-waste recycling mechanism in Nigeria has denied the country an opportunity to earn from the $57 billion worth of raw materials realised globally from recycling last year. According to a UN report on e-waste, though Nigeria was one of the few African countries with e-waste policy as of 2019, the country had no record of recycling in the year. Major raw materials realised from the wastes generated globally in 2019, which stood at 53.6 million tonnes, include iron, aluminum and copper.

The report, however, noted that the raw materials were realisable in countries with proper recycling system and adequate recycling technologies. Electronic wastes from mobile phones and other electronic devices such as computers and television contain toxic substances that can have an adverse impact on human health and the environment, according to health experts. These, however, can also be turned into economic gains through proper recycling, which is still lacking in Nigeria. According to the UN report, Nigeria generated the largest amount of e-waste in West Africa in 2019 at 461,000 tonnes, and second in Africa behind Egypt,which generated 585,800 tonnes. But while other African countries such as South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, Namibia and Rwanda are said to have some facilities in place for e-waste recycling, Nigeria is said to have none formally.

“On the other hand, sizeable countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and Ghana are still very reliant on informal recycling. “A study conducted in Nigeria shows that approximately 60,000- 71,000 tonnes of used electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) were imported annually into Nigeria through the two main ports in Lagos in 2015 and 2016. It was found that most of the imported used ewaste was shipped from developed countries such as Germany, UK, Belgium, the USA, etc. Additionally, a basic functionality test showed that, on average, at least 19 per cent of devices were non-functional,” UN stated in the report. The report notes that e-waste management in Africa is dominated by thriving informal sector collectors and recyclers in most countries; neither organised takeback systems nor license provisions for sorting and dismantling e-waste exist.

“Government control of this sector is currently very minimal and inefficient. The handling of e-waste is often processed in backyards by manual stripping to remove electronic boards for resale, open burning of wires to recover few major components (e.g. copper, aluminum, and iron), and the deposition of other bulk components, including CRTs, in open dumpsites,” it stated. UN, in the report, added that though Nigeria and a few other African countries now have a policy on e-waste, the enforcement has been a problem. Recall that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) had last year introduced a regulation to address the rising e-waste challenge in the country.

The regulation, which is targeted at electronics manufacturers in the country forbids them from importing any device without a verifiable and approved plan of evacuating the wastes that would be generated thereafter. In the regulatory document, a copy of which was seen by our correspondent, NCC declared that all mobile manufacturers must now apply for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) authorisation from the telecoms regulator before they can import any device. “Every producer shall make an application to the Commission for Extended Producer Responsibility Authorisation within three months from the date of the commencement of these Regulations. The application shall include: The targeted quantity of E-waste to be collected, recycled and disposed of, during the year, which is to be determined on the basis of the quantity of electrical and electronic equipment placed in the market in the previous years and taking into consideration the average life of the electrical and electronic equipment; the estimated quantity of E-waste generated during the current year and the quantity expected to be collected; and the collection scheme proposed as contained in the Extended Producer Responsibility Plan.

“ERP authorisation shall comprise of a general scheme for the collection of waste electrical electronic equipment from the electrical and electronic equipment placed on the market earlier, such as through dealer, collection facility, Producer Responsibility Organisation, through buy-back arrangement, exchange scheme, deposit refund scheme, return to retail store, drop-off site, collection event, whether directly or through any authorised agency and channelling the items so collected to authorised recyclers,” it added. Based on the foregoing, the commission said it may refuse to grant the EPR authorisation if the applicant fails to provide the required details, after affording the producer reasonable opportunity of being heard. “In the event of a refusal of Extended Producer Responsibility Authorisation, the producer will forfeit the right to put any electrical and electronic equipment in the market till such time the authorisation is granted,” the commission stated.




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