How to solve the eWaste issue


It’s no good wringing our hands over eWaste. The answer is simple if we have the political will to outlaw all dumping of electronic waste, says Tony Roberts of Computer Aid International

It is essential that every country builds end-of-life processing capacity for its own eWaste.


Over one billion TVs; one billion mobile phones and over one billion personal computers are now in use. The volume of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) consumed in every country is enormous and growing rapidly.

But there is no mystery about what needs to be done. The policy prescription is relatively straight forward and, for once, the financing solution is clear.

We must resist consultants and commercial interest groups telling us that what we need is a five year research programme to identify the solution to Africa’s eWaste problem. That is a lie.

There are many end-of-life recycling facilities up and running today. They process electrical and electronic equipment proficiently without environmental damage. They result in no landfill; and present no threat to the health and safety of the people who work in the recyling centres.

The best recycling centres exist in countries like Netherlands, Belgium, Germany etc. In fact they exist in precisely those countries that have an effective green and environmental lobby that can force their government to put end-of-life recycling capacity in place.

Computer Aid International worked in concert with many other organisations to ensure that the UK government, dragging its heels, and having missed the deadline, eventually implemented the European WEEE directive in UK law.

In many developing countries the green and environmental campaigning groups are mobilising to force their governments to put into place end-of-life recycling capacity in their countries.

A simple answer

There is no mystery about what needs to be done. It is perfectly plain and straight forward. We know exactly what the legislation must achieve and we know exactly how to finance the whole operation.

When we look at those countries that today already have perfectly good, environmentally friendly, end-of-life recycling solutions in place for eWaste they share several essential features.

And these features correspond to the five central demands that we must make of our governments:

  1. Outlaw the importation of foreign Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
  2. Outlaw the dumping of domestic eWaste (WEEE)
  3. Compel the re-use of EEE through social re-use programs for rural hospitals and disadvantaged schools
  4. Compel the recycling of all WEEE at the end of it useful life
  5. Resource the effective policing of these laws and prosecution of those who break this law