Computer Aid recently launched a guide on how to conduct e-waste advocacy at the UN’s Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi, Kenya. The guide is intended for NGOs and civil society groups anywhere in the world to help them campaign for improvement to current systems in their countries and put an end to the harmful social and environmental impacts of electronics.
The statistics are scary, the United Nations Environment Programme estimates that globally we generate around 50 million tonnes of e-waste per year and, with current trends in electronics design and manufacture driving rapid replacement cycles, this only seems like it will continue to get worse.
Why is Computer Aid concerned?
Of particular concern to Computer Aid is the impact that e-waste has on communities and the environment in developing countries, where we predominantly work. Computer Aid exists to reduce poverty through practical ICT solutions and we work in some of the poorest and most marginalised communities in the world, providing ICT for use in educations, health and agriculture. However, as well as providing essential IT to these communities, we want there to be safe and environmentally friendly facilities for them to get their electronic waste recycled, once it has reached its end of life.
In Europe we have authorised recyclers we can go to, which we take for granted. We also have a law, the WEEE Directive which means that companies within the EU have a legal obligation to ensure their equipment is either reused or recycled. Many countries don’t have these laws and, highly disturbingly, our laws seems to have exacerbated the flow of Europe’s e-waste to countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and China, as it’s so much cheaper to recycle it there. However without proper e-waste laws, the equipment is often recycled in a manner that is extremely harmful to the health of the people working on and living near the recycling sites as well as to the environment.
We want to see systems in place in all countries in the world that ensure the safe and responsible management of e-waste – which is why we’ve published this guide.
Why do we need e-waste advocacy guide?
Computer Aid believes that campaigning and advocacy in this area can make a real difference to policy as well as to awareness among decision makers and the general public.
We, along with other civil society groups and NGO’s in the UK, have been campaigning on e-waste and green IT issues for several years and have seen these changes happen in the UK and in Europe. We’ve learnt a lot from our experiences and wanted to share this knowledge with other organisations who are looking to bring about change in e-waste management in their own countries. We hope that this toolkit will enable other civil society actors to push for changes in their countries and bring about the essential first steps in building the capacity to minimise the environmental, health and social impacts of electronics and e-waste.
The guide takes into account the whole lifecycle of electronics from their manufacture through to their end of life and their disposal. It was written by Computer Aid’s former Environmental Advocacy Officer, Haley Bowcock, in conjunction with our partners in the Balkans the Balkans E-Waste Management Advocacy Network (BEWMAN). The whole project was financed thanks to a grant from the European Union.
Director of Marketing and Communications at Computer Aid International