Did you receive a new smartphone, tablet or television for Christmas? Are your children enjoying new electronic toys? This International Mobile Phone Recycling Day, South Africans must consider recycling the goods these gifts have replaced, or donating them for refurbishment.
The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, released by a specialised agency of the United Nations, estimates that 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated in 2016. Of that amount, only about 20% was recycled.
Each year, South Africa generates about 300 000 tonnes of electronic waste - about 5.7 kgs per citizen. In Africa, we're the second-highest generator of e-waste.
“Mobile devices are among the most disposable of electronic goods, contributing significantly to the shocking amounts of e-waste generated every year,” explains Alicja Radwanska, chief marketing officer at weFix. “Consider that South Africa is one of the most connected countries on the continent. As devices locally get more affordable, we can upgrade and replace smartphones and tablets more frequently which is fantastic for individuals – but there is a resulting risk to the environment.”
The Jane Goodall Institute's International Mobile Phone Recycling Day campaign was started to protect chimpanzees and safeguard their habitats, threatened by extraction of minerals used to manufacture electronic devices. Control over mining these minerals has created conflict among human communities, and perpetuated unsustainable livelihoods for the people in areas like the Congo Basin.
Pauline Stuart from South Africa's Jane Goodall Institute adds, "As consumers, we can make a big difference by recycling our phones and reducing the demand for these minerals. Doing so removes these electronics from the waste stream, and reduces the demand for extraction of resources from the habitats that many species - especially chimpanzees, other great apes, and human beings - call home.”
“Extraction of these natural resources involves destroying the forests that chimpanzees call home. Tracts of forest are cleared to make way for new roads leading to mining sites which then open the previously inaccessible forest to loggers and poachers. Control over the mining of these minerals has fuelled conflict among human communities and perpetuated unsustainable livelihoods for people who migrate to forests in search of safety from the conflict, which also results in the hunting of local wildlife for food, including chimpanzees for bushmeat (food) and pet trades."
Radwanska says that South Africans are increasingly calling for refurbished or reconditioned items products that exist within a new ‘circular economy’ that rejects the ‘take, make and dispose’ industrial model. In the last few years, local companies such as Vodacom, DSTV, and weFix are offering refurb or repair products that are affordable and environmentally conscientious.
weFix believes that there is great value giving a ‘second life’ to mobile devices that are pre-owned, damaged during shipment, demo units that are shop-soiled, or new devices that have a fault upon opening.
“Acknowledging that our business is part of a wider industry that generates e-waste, weFix has partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute to educate South Africans about device recycling, and to make it really easy for citizens to dispose of their devices responsibly,” says Radwanska.
From today, weFix will place recycle bins in its 35 stores around the country, part of an ongoing initiative to promote recycling and refurbishment of mobile and other electronic devices.
“Consumers are invited to drop off any old devices instore. For every 20 devices we recycle, we will also adopt a chimpanzee for a year, with the aim of sponsoring all 33 chimps at Chimp Eden in Mpumalanga.”
“Recycling devices, donating them for refurbishment and purchasing refurbished, rather than new, devices, are all important, impactful ways that citizens can ensure our love of electronic devices doesn’t risk the environment and human health,” says Radwanska.