The amount of electronics we buy and use has grown considerably over the last decade, but have you ever thought about where all of these gadgets eventually end up? Electronic waste, or WEEE, is expected to grow to 60 million tonnes globally by 2017, an increase of a third in just five years.
HP Start Large Scale E-Waste Collection Similar To UK’s WEEE Waste Scheme
This is particularly prevalent in developing countries including many in Africa, which has more mobile phones in circulation than America. But with few regulations or restrictions on electrical waste or e-waste, the problem will only get worse. In the UK we have the ‘Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive’, also known as the WEEE waste scheme.
However there is an incentive to collect old technology, as much of it contains small amounts of precious metals which if collected and refined on a large enough scale, can be converted into money which can pay for the scheme to run.
For every one million mobile phones, you can recover significant amounts of valuable metals including 24kg of gold, 250kg of silver and nine tonnes of copper. You can even discover a few kilograms of the palladium – one of the rarest metals on the planet.
Hewlett-Packard has run a similar waste collection programmes in developing countries including one in Kenya which began in 2010. However this one has been on a bigger scale than any before and has required a great deal of work to establish the recycling infrastructure which before was non-existent, and to gain the co-operation between the private, public and academic sectors, among bottom-of-the-pyramid individuals and multinational corporations, and between local labour and global marketplaces.
The original Kenyan programme in Nairobi has gone on to be a huge success, with micro-businesses now operating to collect and deal with the e-waste, which has provided local people with 2,000 jobs this year, with measures included which ensure every worker is paid a fair price.
“This is the first model of its kind, not just in Africa but anywhere in the world,” says Robert Truscott, chief executive of East African Compliant Recycling (EACR), which is partnered with the scheme. “This model is about connecting the collector to the global markets for the materials, and providing them with a fair and transparent price, to ensure they get the maximum value for the waste.”
Hewlett-Packard has long been an advocate for recycling and sustainability going all the way back to 1957. Since then it has created electrical waste collections similar to the UK’s WEEE waste scheme in over 70 countries and recycled over a billion kg’s of IT equipment.
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