Recommendations to incorporate Circular Economic/Closed Loop principles in e-waste legislative and financing systems

The circular economy, as defined by United Nations Environment Programme (2006), is

An economy which balances economic development with environmental and resources protection. It puts emphasis on the most efficient use and recycling of resources, and environmental protection. A Circular Economy features low consumption of energy, low emission of pollutants and high efficiency.

The e-waste value chain starts with collection, continue with good recycling and it should be connected, according to a “circular economy” –symbiotic vision, to selected end user industries that will benefit for the availability of secondary raw materials, better if placed in the local economies. Certain legislative and financing considerations can be taken when drafting and implementing an e-waste management system with a goal to encourage optimal resource recovery in accordance with necessary health, safety and environmental measures. This list is not exhaustive, additional solutions can be considered as new models of circular economy are arising globally.

Some actions that can be introduced legislatively include:

  • Encourage green procurement policies. This can include targets around average product life, purchasing remanufactured products or products made of recycled material.
  • Collaborating on other green economic initiatives being introduced into the country. For instance, in Kenya, the draft Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan (GESIP) was introduced in 2015. Closing the Loop falls strongly under the Strategic Area 4 on Promoting Resource Efficiency
  • Incentivise repair and remanufacturing through tax breaks.
  • Encourage producer take-back, as a customer offering in-stores for via delivery/pick up services.
  • Set targets not just for recycling but also for reuse.

As the collection and proper treatment of hazardous e-waste falls under any closed loop solution, policy makers should also recognize that financing is necessary to provide such services. The treatment of hazardous e-waste is a highly specialist industry that requires very high levels of environmental controls to be in place if it is to avoid significant pollution further down the line.  Its treatment (or disposal) should not, therefore, be undertaken in an ad-hoc manner without the proper controls being in place.  A government has a significant role to play in fostering, developing and regulating such an industry as a critical part of a national infrastructure.
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