Health and Environment Highlighted at E-Waste Academy in El Salvador

  • 2014•06•02     La Libertad

    Acute concerns about e-waste management in developing countries were highlighted at a recent E-Waste Academy for Managers in El Salvador. The Academy was organized by the UNU Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) operating unit in Germany, SCYCLE (Sustainable Cycles), through its role as host of the StEP (Solving the E-Waste Program) Initiative, in cooperation with the Basel Convention Regional Center for Central America and Mexico.

    The week-long academy ended on 4 April, and was the second in a series inaugurated in Ghana in 2012. By sharing insights on “urban mining” and fostering international linkages and collaboration, the academies, along with complementary events for scientists, are enabling local solutions to a growing global concern.

    Though it receives far less foreign e-waste than Africa and Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean is a significant and growing destination for the industrialized world’s discarded refrigerators, small home appliances, televisions, mobile phones, computers, monitors, electronic toys and other electronic products.

    The region’s fast-growing middle class is buying more electronic and electrical equipment first-hand, with rising purchasing power and living-standards expectations. According to the World Bank, in the past decade the middle class in the region grew 50 percent and represents 32 percent of the population, for the first time in regional history surpassing the number of poor.

    Data compiled by UNU-IAS and StEP show that per capita e-waste generation in the region’s 30 countries averaged 7.5 kilograms in 2013, led by the Bahamas with 19.1 kilograms per capita. By 2017, regional per capita generation is expected to rise almost 19 percent to 8.9 kilograms in 2017.

    Only about one-third of the countries of South America, Latin America and the Caribbean have regulatory instruments related to e-waste (Brazil has the most, followed by Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico and Costa Rica), though others are proposing or actively working on specific legislation.

    E-waste is one of the fastest-growing components of waste globally. UNU-IAS SCYCLE and the StEP Initiative recently released data in the first-ever global e-waste map, showing that by 2017 the annual amount of global e-waste will be 65.4 million tons — one third more than 2012 levels.

    Kazuhiko Takemoto, UNU-IAS Director, observed that “there is great opportunity in the e-waste recycling industry — a sector valued at US$ 9.8 billion in 2012 and expected to reach over US$ 40 billion before the end of the decade. ‘Waste management’ is being reinvented as ‘resource management’ because the resources are just too valuable to squander.”

    The E-waste Academy for Managers aims to foster and sustain multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaboration, examining the e-waste issue in its entirety, rather than through the lens of a specific discipline. The academies feature expert lectures and presentation on topics ranging from e-waste related policy and sociology issues to technology and economics, as well as group projects and site visits.

    The Academy in El Salvador was sponsored by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology / Swiss State Secretariat of Economic Affairs, the Dutch Foundation for the Disposal of Metal and Electrical Products, the US Environmental Protection Agency, Nokia, the Global E-sustainability Initiative, Hewlett Packard, Dell, the UN Industrial Development Organization and World Loop. The Academy brought together 21 participants from 10 different countries in Latin America and three participants from Africa. It also engaged 14 experts from leading institutions such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the US EPA, the World Resources Forum in Switzerland and precious metal recycler Umicore in Belgium, and seven facilitators from IT manufacturers (Dell, Hewlett Packard and Nokia), as well as UNIDO.

    For more information, please visit the E-waste Academy for Managers website.