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Golden potential of Africa’s landfill

September 25, 2018


According to UN environment, Africa’s landfill sites are full of ‘untapped potential’, such as the opportunity of turning e-waste into gold.

Speaking recently at the Earth Innovation Forum in Tallinn, which took place on 5 September 2018, the Director General of Home Appliance Europe, Paolo Falcioni, said,

“Five million tonnes of electronic equipment in Europe is generated as e-waste. Out of the five million, four million tonnes of the e-waste is recycled. Of those, 3.5 million tonnes become secondary raw materials. The rest of the e-waste is not traced.”

UN environment has stated the likelihood of this e-waste ending up in Africa and explains that e-waste management “has become a major challenge facing many African countries because of lack of awareness, environmental legislation and limited financial resources.”

Most waste is disposed of by being sent to landfill, or dumped or burned, leading to environmental and health hazards.

However, while e-waste contains many toxic elements, it also has many that have “economic value”, including copper, tin, silver, gold, cobalt and palladium. By creating a circular economy, “these waste materials could be turned into secondary raw materials that can be used as valuable inputs in different companies.”

In order to accomplish this, “innovative solutions are needed to integrate the informal e-waste recycling sector across the continent into sound sustainable e-waste management strategies.”

Through its Switch Africa Green project in Ghana, UN Environment, jointly with the Environmental Protection Agency and in partnership with Ghana National Cleaner Production Centre, has implemented a project on electronic waste and developed the Ghana e-waste model that formed the basis for the Hazardous and Electronic Waste Control and Management Act (2016). This led to the Government of Ghana to prepare for the setup of an e-waste recycling plant at Agbogbloshie.

UN Environment says it continue to support African governments to tackle the issue of e-waste management. Value in e-waste can be extracted in a way that supports the local economy and protects people’s health and the environment, explains the organisation.




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