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As collection and processing of e-waste and discarded electronics in Africa reaches worrisome proportions, industry leaders and policymakers from all over the world are meeting in Cape Town, South Africa on June 7, 2013.

They will discuss the electronics recycling standards that are emerging in several countries and how they are applicable to the African electronics recycling and refurbishment industries. The intent of the event is to speed up efforts to address the African e-waste problem in a manner that protects the environment and workers' health, and also creates economic opportunity.

A recent UN study finds that domestic consumption is the main contributor to Africa's growing e-waste problem. Africa now has more mobile phone users than either the U.S. or European Union or Latin America.


This meeting will be at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The event is sponsored by Microsoft and organized by TechSoup Global, WorldLoop, and Mico E-Waste Solutions. Participants include the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Basel Conventional Regional Coordinating Centre for Africa for Training & Technology Transfer, Dell, Hewlett Packard, The e-Waste Association of South Africa (eWASA), and R2 Solutions.

Industry, including e-waste recyclers, refurbishers, environmental auditors, and consultants, as well as policy leaders from many countries globally, will be participating in this event.

"It is important to understand emerging electronic reuse and recycling standards, their strengths and weaknesses in the African context, and build the capacity to utilize them where appropriate. Done well, this can create economic opportunities as well as address environmental concerns," said Sean Nicholson, Microsoft 3R manager.

Industry and policy leaders will share information on the current state of African electronics recycling and refurbishment policy and practice. Special emphasis will be placed on voluntary industry standards like Responsible Recycling (R2) in the U.S. and Weeelabex in Europe to ensure the responsible recycling of used electronics. The standards include provisions that protect the environment, improve operations, ensure worker health and safety, improve data security, and allow participants to successfully compete in the world market.

The intention of the event is to join industry and government in putting into action some of the principles developed at the 2012 United Nation’s Pan-African Forum on E-Waste in Nairobi, Kenya. A particular outcome is to ensure some of the attendees are able to make decisions on offering reuse and recycling services that align with these best practice principles.

Image: Beanhammer (Flickr Creative Commons)