International E-waste Day
14 October 2020

The campaign, which launches on 14 October, will include raising awareness on social media. placing e-waste recycling bins at various schools, and donations of refurbished equipment to underprivilaged schools.

On 14 October, electronic waste specialists AST Recycling will be participating in International E-Waste Day. The event was developed in 2018 by the WEEE Forum, an international association of electronic waste producer responsibility organisations. The second International E-Waste Day was observed in 2019, with participants from 48 countries and 112 organisations.

E-waste, resulting from any product with a power cord or a battery, is a growing waste stream that needs to be taken seriously. Some components of electrical products are harmful to the environment and communities, and many informal recyclers do not take the proper precautions when dealing with these potentially harmful products.

The time for this event could not be more ripe. In 2019, a record 53.6 million metric tonnes of e-waste was generated worldwide – an increase of 21% in just five years. And if left unchecked, it is estimated that by 2030, this number will reach 74 million metric tonnes. In the face of this burgeoning global problem, only 17.4% of 2019’s e-waste was collected and recycled.

“This is not just a developed world problem,” says Malcolm Whitehouse, the general manager of AST Recycling. “South Africa generates about 6.2kg of e-waste per inhabitant and only 12% of that is recycled, so we’re very much behind the already low global e-waste recycling rate. Raising awareness and creating easy points of collection for e-waste are crucial in addressing this growing problem.”

AST Recycling is a fervent supporter of International E-Waste Day and its associated activities to raise the profile of e-waste recycling and encourage consumers to recycle their e-waste. In 2020, they will be partnering with Miss Earth South Africa Lungo Katete to raise awareness about e-waste recycling in general, to launch a social media campaign “rethink e-waste” and to start a schools e-waste programme that will raise awareness and benefit underprivileged schools with donations and equipment resulting from e-waste refurbishment.

The project will see an e-waste recycling bin placed at various schools for during October and November. Students and their parents will be encouraged to bring in any e-waste that they have at home to be recycled. At the end of the collection period, the value of the donated waste will be tallied, and AST Recycling will donate the value of the waste to a charity of each school’s choice. In addition, any of the collected e-waste that can be repaired and refurbished will be donated underprivileged schools.

“The purpose of the schools bin project is to highlight the whole ecosystem of e-waste disposal, recycling and refurbishment,” says Whitehouse. “So much e-waste is simply discarded when it comes to the end of its useful life. It is not disposed of responsibly, and it is not assessed for the possibility of a refurbishment. By placing bins at these schools, we’re showing the learners and their parents how their unwanted equipment has value and can be of enormous benefit to others.”

AST Recycling will take full responsibility for the ultimate disposal of the donated equipment when it is no longer in use by the schools – which Whitehouse explains is a critical and often overlooked step in the responsible donation of equipment.

What can I do to help recycle e-waste responsibly?

If ever you have a piece of equipment that has reached the end of its useful life, you should take the following steps:

·         Assess whether the product can be repaired. There may be many years of life in the product yet.

·         If it is repairable, check the energy consumption of that particular product. It may be better to responsibly recycle it and purchase a new one, than to continue using a product with a poor energy consumption rating.

·         If you have taken the first two steps and your informed decision is that it is better to recycle the product, then discard it and all its components in an allocated e-waste bin. Or you can contact AST Recycling to arrange for an e-waste collection, or find out about the best way to dispose of your particular product.

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