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Uganda launches first e-waste management centre

By Daniel Otto

Uganda has launched her first e-waste management centre, raising hopes that the country’s fast growing electronic waste menace  will now be well addressed.

Uganda imports several tonnes of both used and new electronic and electronics every year. A 2017 UN assessment showed that the stock of e-waste in the country stood at an estimated 25,000 tonnes, and growing at 5 per cent, annually.

E-waste is generated from electronic and electrical  equipment that falls to disuse out of age or spoilage. It includes disused equipment like computers, servers, monitors, printers, scanners, photocopiers, calculators, refrigerators, washing machines, TV sets, medical equipment, cellular phones, air conditioners, among others.

This equipment is made of plastics and metals. Some of the metals include copper, silver, gold, platinum. Some have toxic metals and substances like Lithium, Mercury, Lead, Nickel, Selenium, Arsenic, Barium. Some of them like Beryllium, Mercury,  Lead and Cadmium are known to pose risk to life even in very small amounts.

These toxic chemicals become dangerous to humans, animals and the environment when they enter the food, water and air system and they have been known to cause cancers, respiratory, nervous, digestive system sicknesses, some of which are debilitating and fatal. Some are known to cause reproductive and congenital effects in animals and humans.

The centre is located on plot 66, 6th Street Industrial Area in Kampala under the direct management of the National Enterprises Corporation (NEC), a manufacturing arm of the Uganda’s Defence Forces.

The centre is a product of several years’ work involving key stakeholders – The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), The Ministry of Information & National Guidance, Uganda Communications Commission, Uganda National Bureau of Standards, National IT Authority (NITA-U), NEC, Uganda Investment Authority, Uganda Revenue Authority, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).

Speaking at the launch the executive director of NEMA, Dr. Tom Okurut, said, Today, most E-waste (in the country) is being discarded together with other waste streams like domestic waste. However, there are environmental concerns associated with the end-of-life and waste from electric and electronic equipment (EEE). It is a fact that e-waste contains hazardous components, including beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead and therefore must be handled and treated cautiously. Improper disposal of e-waste poses environment, health, safety and security risks; and can lead to pollution of our soil, air and water with undesirable chemicals.”

Gen. Innocent Oula, the deputy managing director of NEC said during the launch that the National E-Waste Management Centre will be the main and pivotal e-waste management facility in the country managed by NEC with oversight, regulation and coordination by NEMA. He said initially, the facility will collect, sort, dismantle and dispose e-waste and shall progress towards a refurbishment and recycling facility. It is expected that regional collection centres will be established to supplement the National Waste Manage Centre.

Present at the function were:  Eng Irene Kaggwa Sewankambo-Ag Executive Director-UCC, David Ebiru Executive Director-UNBS, representatives from URA, NITA-U, among others.

Uganda has in place laws and regulations that address e-waste management. These include the National Environment Act (2019), Waste management Regulations (2020), E-Waste management Policy (2012), E-Waste Management Strategic Plan and E-Waste Guidelines 2016.

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