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Sierra Leone News: E-waste a threat to health and home – UN

The growing volume of electronic waste, including discarded products with a battery or plug, such as mobile phones, laptops, televisions, refrigerators and electrical toys, poses a major threat to the environment and human health, the United Nations says.
Electronic waste, or e-waste, is a term for electronic products that have become unwanted, non-working or obsolete, and have essentially reached the end of their useful life. Because technology advances at such a high rate, many electronic devices become “trash” after a few short years of use.
In 2012, there were over 1.6 billion cell phones manufactured. And, the average lifespan of a mobile phone is approximately 18 months, according to IFIT.org. In 2016, according to Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated, an increase of 3.3 million metric tonnes, or 8%, from 2014. Experts foresee e-waste increasing a further 17% to 52.2 million metric tonnes by 2021.
“Environmental protection is one of the three pillars of sustainable development. E-waste management is an urgent issue in today’s digitally dependent world, where use of electronic devices is ever increasing,” said Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, released by ITU, the UN University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), highlights increasing levels of e-waste and its improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through burning or at dumpsites.
Sadly, Sierra Leone is at an infant stage of developing necessary management strategies, standards and policies to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects of e-waste.
According to Ali Jalloh, Head of Chemical Waste, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), though Sierra Leone has ratified to the BASEL Convention on the Control of Trans boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, there is no national policy to guide or manage e-waste in the country. There are also no e-waste recycling facilities, no battery recycling facilities and no attempt to manage the e-waste that burdens the country.
The overarching objective of the Basel Convention is to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes.
Jalloh said, “The EPA has developed a draft national e-waste policy. The EPA is currently on awareness assessment to determine the best available technology and best environmental practice with regards better e-waste management.”
He noted that there is no statistic as to determine the amount of e-waste in the country pointing out that the export of scrap metal and the re-use of mobile phone parts are some options that the country has been working on to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects of e-waste.
Harmful effects caused by improper computer and electronic waste can be dangerous. Electronic waste affects nearly every system in the human body because they contain a plethora of toxic components including mercury, lead, cadmium, polybrominated flame retardants, barium and lithium.
“In 2016, only about 20%, or 8.9 million metric tons, of all e-waste was recycled which Sierra Leone e-waste as an exception.” The UN stated.
Currently, 66% of the world population, living in 67 countries, is covered by national e-waste management law. Low recycling rates can have a negative economic impact.
In 2016, the UN estimated that e-waste contained rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and other high value recoverable materials, whose total value is estimated at $55 billion USD, a figure exceeding the gross domestic product of most countries in the world.
By Sylvia Villa
Wednesday December 20, 2017.

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