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A couple weeks ago, I
posted about an upcoming e-waste and refurbishment standards conference in
South Africa that I was co-organizing. The event has now taken place, and this post is about what happened.
Industry and policy leaders shared
information on the current state of African electronics recycling and
refurbishment policy and practice. Those of us presenting from the U.S. and
Europe talked about the voluntary industry standards like Responsible
Recycling (R2) in the U.S. and Weeelabex in Europe.
industry-led standards to ensure the responsible recycling of used
electronics. The standards discussed
included provisions that protect the environment, improve operations, ensure
worker health and safety, improve data security, and help companies successfully compete in
the world market.
The event's purpose was to join industry and government in putting into action some of
the precepts developed at the 2012 United Nation’s Pan-African Forum on E-Waste in Nairobi, Kenya.
Desired outcomes of the
Smail Alhilali summed up the event this way: "The event facilitated discussions
between stakeholders throughout the whole chain of e-waste recycling. In the
long term, standards will be key to stimulating the economic development of the
recycling industry in Africa." Find UNIDO’s press release about the conference here.
This conference changed my view of Africa dramatically. There is a
huge amount of good work going on in the field of electronics recycling that I
had no idea about.
I’ve already written about some of it in my post on How
Digital Inclusion Is Done in Africa.
And I’m going to revise my
Snapshot of Worldwide Electronics Recycling 2013
that featured the work of the e-Waste
Association of South Africa (eWASA). It was a thrill to
meet Keith Anderson who founded and runs eWasa — and about 74 other people
doing great work in this field.
Above right — TechSoup Africa director David Barnard, Jim Lynch, and World Links'
director Eliada Gudza. Bottom picture —
Microsoft worldwide manager of refurbisher programs Sean Nicholson in
a roundtable discussion with key United Nations Industrial Development
Organisation (UNIDO) leaders. UNIDO’s
Smail Alhilali is in the foreground.
Images courtesy of Caroline Bowley
Montage courtesy of Glenn Hirsch
So... what happens now? How will we know if this results anything?
Thanks so much for sharing - hope those questions don't sound cynical... as a former UN employee, having attended a lot of really great conferences, I'm always interested in what happens next.
I am glad that this conference changed your view of Africa but do not forget that Africa is a very diverse continent and economies like those of Kenya and South Africa are are among the richest. There are large differences between and within countries, examples of 'best practise' may not generalise.
Jane - Great question. I am fielding inquiries from attendees who want to find out more about getting certified to one of the standards. So far we have 4 recycling/refurbishing companies and 2 auditors that have expressed interest and are taking the next steps. - Jim