New Project to Reduce E-Waste in 13 Latin American Countries
The rates of electronic waste globally have quickly increased as the amount of developing nations join the global information society in rising numbers.
Most developing countries lack environmental service industries that regulate the disposal of electronic devices. Even the most basic items such as computers contain toxic substances, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and POPs (a carcinogen), which can pose a great threat to humans and the environment.
According to Eurasia Review, electronic waste comprising of computers, televisions, fridges, mobile phones and other appliances is expected to reach 52.2 million worldwide by 2021. In 2014 alone, Latin America produced 9 percent of the world’s total e-waste, with Brazil as its biggest contributor. In this continent, it is predicted for the e-waste from just mobile phones to reach 4795 kilotons in 2018, and the e-waste from mobile phones is just 0.5% of the continent’s total e-waste.
Aside from recycling e-waste due to health and environmental threats, the reuse of electronic parts is also a very economically feasible option.
“E-waste contains high value resources, precious metals such as gold, silver, palladium and platinum, as well as high value plastics that make resource recovery and recycling activities attractive from an economic and business perspective,” according to an article by Eurasia Review.
In fact, The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017 has stated that the total value of all raw materials in 2016 was approximately 55 billion Euros, which is more than the 2016 GDP of most countries. However, in terms of the economic and employment opportunities that could arise from the recycling and reuse of these raw materials, the presented 55 billion Euros would be an understatement of such economic opportunities.
The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), with financial support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has launched a new project involving 13 Latin American countries to tackle cross-regional challenges by way of a circular economy advance to the proper recycling and disposal methods of e-waste.
This new program, titled ‘Strengthening of National Initiatives and Enhancement of Regional Cooperation for the Environmentally Sound Management of POPs in Waste of Electrical or Electronic Equipment (WEEE) in Latin American Countries’ will be enacted in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
As published by the GEF, “the project consists of two components, focusing on (1) the strengthening of national e-waste management initiatives; and, (2) the enhancement of regional cooperation on e-waste management.”
Specifically, on a national scale, some of the project’s goals are to bolster policies, design and test guidelines for e-waste management strategies to comply with regional standards, train technicians and staff working at e-waste facilities, and to establish co-operations with universities to include e-waste related courses in their curricula and research. At the regional level, some of the goals are to enhance regional cooperation, information-exchange systems, and knowledge management, and to develop activities to facilitate post-project planning.
The formation of independent events, groups and organizations that implement different initiatives (such as education campaigns and pilot collection activities) have already begun in some of the countries participating in the program. However, there are some nations such as such as Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Guatemala, among others, that have yet to implement advanced policies.
As a result, the project will positively affect many sectors of a nation’s economy. For collectors, dismantlers and recyclers, this is expected to result in an increased amount of jobs, better business opportunities and more training and equipment. Owners of e-waste will now have access to safe disposal options, governments will have national policy development, and business investment opportunities will expand.
However, the risk analysis report for this new project does include a high contribution to climate change, economically unsustainable dismantling facilities, a possibility of inappropriate transboundary movement of hazardous waste, and a possibility of changed government interest.