According to the European Commission the global economy currently loses a significant potential of secondary raw materials which are found in waste streams.

In 2013, total waste generation in the EU amounted to approximately 2.5 billion tons of which 1.6 billion tons were not reused or recycled and therefore lost for the European economy. It is estimated that an additional 600 million tons could be recycled or reused. By way of example, only a limited share (43%) of the municipal waste generated in the EU was recycled, with the rest being landfilled (31%) or incinerated (26%). The EU thus misses out on significant opportunities to improve resource efficiency and create a more circular economy (European Commission).[1]

Such estimates are not available for the African economy, however with burning and primitive resource extraction processes being prevalent on the continent it can be inferred that Africa is also missing out on potentially economically attractive secondary raw materials that are lost through emissions or processing technologies. As such, Africa stands to see significant opportunities with the improvement of E-Waste management systems.

EWIT assessed the ability to introduce, promote or strengthen the delivery of a circular economy across the four municipalities identified by EWIT – Choma, Zambia; Kisii, Kenya; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; and Johannesburg, South Africa. While the four African countries under the scope of EWIT are at various stages of establishing legal and financial frameworks, as well as local initiatives to address the challenge of the increasing flows of end-of-life electrical and electronics products, little to no emphasis has been placed on a holistic approach to product lifecycle management.

The EWIT consortium has assessed these components in their applicability to the context of the four municipalities chosen including a baseline assessment taking into consideration current legislation, geographical scope, industrial players, basic awareness, challenges and recommendations to assist in realizing Closed Loop solutions. Because a true solution in the value chain for E-Waste is highly dependent on the product, component and fraction, the following were identified for assessment per municipality:

  • Non-ferrous metals
  • Ferrous metals
  • Printed circuit boards
  • Hi-tech plastics
  • Brominated flame-retardant plastics
  • CRT & Flat panel monitors
  • Portable batteries
  • Rare-earth elements [2]
  • Printer cartridges & toners
  • Refrigerator foam
  • Florescent tubes

[1] EC Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council.

[2] Only considered in the case of Johannesburg Municipality due to technology available in Johannesburg and current discussions at policy level to improve recovery rare-earth elements.