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

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 harm 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 e-waste 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.

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