By Reinhard Jacobsen
VIENNA (IDN) — How to enhance decision-making for sustainable e-waste management systems while fostering cooperation at the national, regional and global levels? This was the theme of a four-day event, which over 340 participants and a wide range of international experts explored from May 23 to 26. [E-waste are discarded products or components that need a power or battery supply in order to perform their functions.]
This was the third edition of the E-Waste Academy for Managers (EWAM) online—within the framework of the UNIDO-GEF LAC e-waste project, the United Nations Development Organization (UNIDO), the United Nations University (UNU) and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).
The event allowed for information, knowledge and experience sharing related to circularity in electronics and e-waste management—from policies to technologies and from gender perspectives to health impacts.
“In opening up this global forum and training event to online participation, we have been able to convene stakeholders involved in the practical design and implementation of e-waste management solutions from across the world, who are already interested in the Circular Electronics paradigm”, said UNIDO Project Manager Alfredo Cueva.
A series of panel discussions and group sessions provided insights on topics ranging from transboundary movements of e-waste to collection channels and the experiences of vulnerable groups operating informally in the sector.
Overall, the UNIDO-GEF project assists 13 countries with tackling e-waste challenges in the region, with capacity-building activities representing a key element of the project alongside awareness-raising, e-waste policy and regulation advice, public participation, and recycling facility upgrades, among others.
The start of UNIDO’s cooperation with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) dates back to the 1990s when the Organization acted as an Executing Agency of GEF projects implemented by the original GEF Agencies, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Bank, and related to climate change, chemicals, and international waters.
One example of the multiple collaborations developed under the UNIDO-GEF project is the 2021 Regional E-waste Monitor (REM) for Latin-America, which was launched by the Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme that is co-hosted by UNU and UNITAR in cooperation with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The Report found that, between 2010 and 2019, electronic waste generation in the 13 participating countries rose by 49% but that only 3% was collected and safely managed. The remaining 97% may include US$1.7bn in recoverable materials a year; a great opportunity for implementing circular electronics.
In addition, these wastes may contain potentially hazardous components and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) that need to be disposed safely.
All 13 participating countries in the region have some legal and regulatory frameworks for waste management, but only five—Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru—have specific legislations for e-waste and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) systems in place, focusing on the regulation of e-waste. Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay, and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) have neither EPR nor defined collection targets for e-waste in place.
The 13 countries have 206.1 million inhabitants (inh), collectively, the most populous country being Argentina (45.1 million inh) and the least populous being Uruguay (3.5 million inh). The average population growth of the 13 countries from 2010 to 2019 was 10 per cent.
The population growth rate for the 13 countries between 2010 and 2019 averaged 10 per cent. Between 2010 and 2019, Guatemala’s population growth rate was 20 per cent, followed by Honduras (17 per cent), then Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Panama, and Ecuador (15 per cent each), while Uruguay had the smallest growth (4 per cent).
All countries’ populations grew, except for Venezuela’s (Bolivarian Republic of); the Venezuelan population decreased, as more than 5 million people emigrated due to economic and political crises domestically, with about 80 percent of them residing in other Latin American countries.
E-waste management in these countries is primarily defined in general waste or hazardous legislations and/or regulations. All countries have hazardous waste regulation that includes POPs, but none has legislation specifically for POPs from e-waste.
Other pilot activities developed within the E-waste project framework include strengthening e-waste management with a focus on protecting health in Bolivia and Panama (with WHO/PAHO) and studying the value chain with a focus on labour conditions, health and occupational safety in Argentina and Peru (with ILO).
The event was opened by the Uruguayan Environment Minister Adrián Peña, WHO Director of the Health Department for Public Health, Environment and Social Determinants María Neira, UNITAR Director of the Planet Division Angus Mackay and UNIDO’s Department of Environment Deputy Director and Head of UNIDO’s Industrial Resource Efficiency Division Nilgün Tas. [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 May 2022]
Photo: E-waste management seminar. Credit: UNIDO.
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