For Citation: SITE4Society Brief No. 19-2019
Country Focus: Developing countries, especially Nigeria and its bordering West Africa Nations
SITE Focus: Science, Technology, Innovation, Infrastructure, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Policy
Sub-Disciplines: Waste Management, Recycling Enterprises, EEE Manufacturers, End-users of EEE, Policy Makers
Based on: Johnson Ojiyovwi Okorhi, Joe E. Amadi‐Echendua, Helen Olubunmi Aderemi, Roland Uhunmwangho, and Osita Benedict Agbatah (2017). “Solving the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Problem: Socio-economic Assessment on sustainable E-waste management in South Eastern Nigeria”. International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, Inderscience Publishers. Vol. 20, Nos. 5/6, 2017. Pp 300-320.
Related to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): #SDG8 (Economic Growth, Complete and Productive Employment with Decent Working Environment), #SDG9 (Strong Businesses, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure), #SDG12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).
Context: The fast-growing surplus of waste electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste) around the globe has become a concern as several countries seek ways to discard obsolete electrical and electronic equipment (EEE or e). Nigeria still considers e-waste more from the perspective of its socio-economic benefits rather than its long-term environmental impact. Because of its functionality, certain category of e-waste tagged as near end-of-life (E.o.L) EEE or used-e are stockpiled, when they are not disposed of with regular household wastes. 75% of these used-EEE ends up stockpiled due to uncertainties. Anecdotal evidence suggest that these hazardous leftovers end up getting mixed with regular solid wastes, which are afterwards disposed of in a poorly controlled manner. This is due to inadequate planning and appraisal of waste management. Consequently, governments, industrialists, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and academics are rethinking strategies for managing e-waste better. Innovation is now a key push and frontier technologies in formal recycling, using biodegradable material in EEE components development, and, product redesigns are leading ways for improved management of e-waste.
On the other hand, developed countries with highly developed policy frameworks for e-waste, are opening up entirely new businesses evolving trading, source reduction, reuse, recycling, repairs and recovery of materials from used-e, which contain several kinds of valuable materials. Therefore, our approach is based on the consideration that tackling the problem of e-waste in Nigeria does not have to only rely on combating illegal imports, but also on better management of domestically generated e-waste through collection, refurbishing and recycling given e-waste’s socio-economic impacts.
Research Questions with respect to the Nigerian context
- What are the trends in generation, usage and disposal of e-waste? What are the driving factors?
- How can e-waste be better managed?
Motivation for Research Questions: Nigeria, with a large population, has high appetite for used-EEE. In some instances, there is a preference for used-e rather than new-EEE. Making the right management choice is therefore important for stakeholders. There is also a need to assess the nature of end-user participation in e-waste management activities, and the consequences of the working environment on the health of e-waste workers. In Nigeria there exist a well-coordinated refurbishing/repair group which focuses on used-EEE collected both from foreign imports and local sources. Some of the refurbishing clusters are highly professional and have gained regional importance by supplying refurbished equipment not only to Nigerian households, but to other neighbouring West and Central African countries. These clusters feature thousands of small and medium enterprises, employing close to tens of thousands of technicians and traders.
Methodology: The study was carried out in South Eastern Nigeria, one of the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria covering the urban centres in Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi and Anambra States. A survey was conducted with a questionnaire being administered to 280 stakeholders, out of which 201 answered forms were usable. These were from: monitoring agencies of EEE/e-waste (35), consumers and end-users (137), and distributors and recyclers (29).
Perceptions on the economic drivers of used-e generation and disposal were first ascertained from all stakeholders. Then the monitoring agencies were asked to rate the functioning of the policy framework in terms of legal and regulatory framework, strategic planning, public education and participation, institutional arrangement, funding schemes and e-waste generation and handling. The consumers and end users were offered statements on e-waste disposal practices, with which they could agree or not, to identify most common practices. Distributors and recyclers were similarly questioned to reveal the most prevalent strategies adopted for e-waste management by technicians and dealers. A range of assessment approaches touching on administrative and technical planning of e-waste systems were employed to develop this questionnaire. Finally, to further confirm our results a linear regression model was estimated with the dependent variable being the efficiency of management of e-waste and the independent variables being the degree of participation of the different kinds of stakeholders and the financial support for the waste management system.
- Business in e-waste is growing: Consumers’ cheaper pricing of e-waste, its availability, quality/superiority of certain used-e to newer products, durability of disused device, low-income consumers as well as the accessibility of end-users to e-waste are the main reasons for the growth of this sector.
- Businesses are not segregating e-waste: Uncontrolled disposal practice for e-waste, lack of storage space for stockpiling, induced cost for disposal, quick obsolesce of used-e, unavailable formal recycling facilities, and high cost of formal recycling are the main reasons.
- Consumers are not segregating e-waste: Consumers would rather stockpile e-waste (retain at home and offices of used-e) before final disposal than segregate it. E-Waste is not clearly categorized before placing into the main waste streams.
- State engagement is weak: The political structure at the 3 tiers of government in South Eastern Nigeria is hindering the devising of sustainable strategies and, the provision of logistics and technical infrastructure are lacking. Government monetary provisions to back policy implementation does not have a significant relationship with the rate of e-waste generation and collection in the study area.
- The e-waste sector remains informal: Formal recycling is yet to gain ground in the study area. To a large extent, the collection and recycling of e-waste are virtually carried out in the informal sector by non-registered and inexperienced persons widely referred to as ‘scavengers’ thereby exposing them to severe health issues and pollution of the environment during the dismantling of these items.
Policy recommendations for better e-waste management:
- Introduce extended producer responsibility, a win-win management strategy for manufacturers and consumers.
- Encourage technologies from organic substances (e.g. energy efficient OLED televisions).
- Encourage small E-waste traders and entrepreneurs to create and run small but formal recycling facilities.
- Engage stakeholders, especially the end-users/consumers and traders of e-waste, in the policy-making process would offer a better understanding of the needs and challenges, as well as appropriating workable strategies. This would create in stakeholders a rethinking action in pursuing a circular economy in South Eastern Nigeria.