7 December 2017

Rwanda: Experts Welcome e-Waste Recycling Facility

Photo: New Times
The e-waste recycling and dismantling facility in Bugesera.

The E-waste recycling and dismantling facility that was inaugurated on Monday will transform e-waste into valuable materials, minimise the effect of environmental hazards and offer more green jobs, experts have said.

The facility, worth $1.5 million (about Rwf1.2 billion) whose construction was financed by the Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA), is located in Bugesera District in Eastern Province.

Environmental experts say the plant comes as a solution to environmental challenges caused by e-waste as electronics contain hazardous components which pollute water and soil.

According to a 2010 report by UNEP titled, "Waste and Climate Change: Global Trends and Strategy Framework," methane gas from landfills represent the largest source of emissions from the waste sector, contributing around 700 tonnes.

"E-waste is dangerous on environment given that most of it has heavy metal components which are pollutants. Dismantling and recycling them will therefore significantly reduce environmental pollution," Charles Mugabo, an environment consultant and advisor to Rwanda in Rwanda Association of Professional Environmental Practitioners (RAPEP), told The New Times.

He said, however, that while the facility has a positive impact, it can also have a negative impact when not well operated.

"There are small components that have no money value and can cause pollution, there is also water used for hygiene purpose and all this will require caution to the facility management," he added.

According to Olivier Mbera, the e-waste project manager at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, an inventory survey and the amount of e-waste to be generated revealed that there is an annual growth in the generation of e-waste in the country, at about 5.95 per cent.

The survey indicated that Rwanda has an annual e-waste generation of between 10,000 tonnes and 15,000 tonnes.

Over 15 types of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) will be dismantled and recycled to generate other valuable materials, according to the officials.

They include; personal computers, printers, mobile phones, photocopying machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, television sets, washing machines, car batteries, dry cell batteries, stabilisers, and electric cooking stoves.

After six months of operation, the facility has collected 120 tonnes of e-waste; recycled 400 computers, 279 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emission mitigated, and 60 tonnes dismantled.

According to Minister for Environment, Vincent Biruta, e-waste poses a serious challenge in many countries around the world and not only does it cause significant damage to the natural environment, but it also severely threatens the health and wellbeing of people.

Biruta said, however, that, like air pollution, e-waste is a human-made problem, and therefore requires concerted efforts to be addressed.

"In just a few short years, this piece of land beside us has been transformed from a field of green grass into a powerhouse of green growth," he said.

"The e-waste facility is testament to the clear vision that Rwanda has for clean and green growth. With Rwanda's goal to be a developed, climate resilient and low carbon economy by 2050, this facility," he said.

He added that the facility also represented the promise of the circular economy as Rwanda is a member of African Circular Economy Alliance, the World Economic Forum and the Global Environment Facility.

In ta recent interview with The New Times, Remy Duhuze, the director of environment regulations and pollution control unit at Rwanda Environment Authority (REMA), said there have been problems in the past to find disposal solutions for obsolete electronics in the country.

Duhuze said e-waste materials are not normally disposed as other waste such as household items.

An Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out to ensure that the facility complies with requirements and REMA will keep monitoring the facility, he said.

"Electronics also have many components that can be reused and recycled which is also a good practice in waste management. Their disposal, as any other waste, was a kind of loss and, therefore, there was a need for a specialised facility to accomplish this," Duhuze added.

According to Vincent Munyeshyaka, the Minister for Trade and Industry, the facility will have a positive impact both on the economy and the environment.

"This facility will support local industries by providing raw materials to recycling industries, such as steel, cooper and plastic industries," he said.

The minister said there is an increase in electronic, electrical and ICT equipment which grew 10 fold between 2001 and 2015 while the subscription of the mobile phone has increased from 1.6 million in 2001 to 8.5 million by June this year, which, he said, can cause environmental hazards.

Jean de Dieu Munyankindi, an employee at the facility, said it has helped him not only get a better job but also to contribute to the reduction of environmental pollution.

"I used to work at an electronic equipment repair shop and most of our materials were dangerous to the environment and on our health," Munyankindi.

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