Third Eye

Time to revisit policy on e-waste management

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020 00:00 |
E-waste management. Photo/Couresy

Kenya’s ambitions for a plastic-free environment could come a cropper if pressure from fossil fuel cartels, who have made Africa a major dumping ground for plastic and e-waste, comes to bear.

Concerns already abound that an intricate web of international players is putting pressure on Kenya to backslide on progress.

A new Interpol report on emerging criminal trends in the global plastic waste market across the world since January 2018 shows a surge in illegal waste shipments, primarily re-routed to South-East Asia and Africa through multiple transit routes.

African countries import large quantities of plastic material which is soon-to-be waste with electronic equipment and vehicle-related e-waste.

However, while Interpol says plastic compounds associated with electronic waste are of particular concern, as they are known to be hazardous, the illicit activity is driven by gaps in legal frameworks to regulate waste management in third world countries, including lack of criminalisation of such acts.

If countries give in to pressure from cartels, Africa’s efforts in tackling dumping could suffer a serious blow, taking the continent back to the drawing board.

Granted, Kenya has tried and is a pioneer in environmental laws having imposed the single use plastic bag ban in August 2017.

However, continuous use of PET plastic bottles, which are now the king of trash is something the country must have a conversation about.

The Interpol report comes amid revelations by the Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM) that Kenya imports a total of 600,000 tonnes of plastics annually but only recycles 43,000 tonnes. 

This raises concerns that while the Ministry of Environment and KAM signed a Framework of Cooperation to sustainably manage plastic PET bottles, plastic pollution is increasing by the day.

Experts warn that if no action is taken, the amount of plastics dumped into the ocean will triple by 2040, from 11 million to 29 million tonnes a year. 

This must concern our tech-hungry country since the growing middle class is ready to embrace any new electronic gadget, regardless of environmental consequences.

It’s time the National Environment Policy, 2013, which is said to be gathering dust at the Attorney General’s office, was revived to enhance compliance and enforcement of e-waste in the country.

Whatever it takes, the country must cushion itself from any forces poisoning our environment.

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