Handling e-waste in Kenya

By Marvice Wanja

NEMA staff during an inspection exercise

The discovery of electronic gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops, and televisions has brought a breakthrough globally but with it came a disadvantage, e-waste. E-waste is discarded electronic devices or appliances which are no longer useful. According to World Economic Forum research, E-waste is now the world’s fastest-growing trash stream, with an estimated waste stream of 48.5 million metric tons in 2018. Comparing that to previous trends, it appears that by 2023, there may be an estimated 61 million metric tons generated. In Kenya, electronic waste is the fastest-growing waste component, with an estimated 51,300 tons of electronic waste being generated annually. E-waste is emerging as one of the most critical environmental challenges globally, regionally, and nationally.
This has led to the creation of The African Health and Pollution Management project which is a five-year
Global Environment Facility’s sixth framework-funded project in five African countries namely; Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana, and Senegal with World Bank as the implementing agency. In Kenya, the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is the executing agency where the project’s main objective is to strengthen institutional capacity to manage and regulate e-waste and related UPOPS in Kenya. E-waste has become an issue that has to be dealt with thoroughly as it is posing an environmental challenge. Many people are ignorant and unaware of the threat posed by e-waste which has caused an accumulation of e-waste to reach an unsustainable level and owing to management challenges, they are becoming a major source of environmental pollution. E-waste is often mixed with other municipal waste and disposed of at open dumpsites where it is treated through open burning. Such open burning for e-waste disposed of is a significant source of polybrominated Diphenyl
Ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), dioxins, furans, cadmium, beryllium and Lead release to the environment which can cause severe human health
and environmental hazards.

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