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As millions of old computers, cellphones and other electronic gadgets pile up across the country, a Durban businessman is hoping to persuade the government to establish a nationwide system to recycle and detoxify SA’s growing mountain of electronic e-waste.
Keith Anderson, chairman of the Electronic Waste Association of SA, says some electrical and electronic products |contain hazardous materials such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and chromium VI that can pollute the air and soil if they are dumped irresponsibly.
Yet, e-waste also contains large volumes of precious metals such as gold, palladium |and indium.
“One metric ton of EoL (End of Life) personal computers contains more gold than that recovered from 17 tons |of gold ore,” according to a draft e-waste management plan developed by the association.
Writing in a recent edition of the magazine Environmental Management, Anderson said the e-waste problem was getting worse because of the rapidpace of technology change, low purchase costs and deliberately planned obsolescence.
Anderson defines e-waste as any household products that run on electricity or batteries, including fridges, printers, washing machines, DVD players, fluorescent tubes, toasters, irons or vacuum cleaners.
The association is finalising a draft plan to tackle the |problem through a voluntary industry-led recycling and collection scheme.
Anderson told The Mercury yesterday that the association hoped to submit a final version to the Department of Environmental Affairs towards the end of the month.
According to the draft plan, SA homes contain between one and two million tons of e-waste that is likely to enter the general waste stream within the next five to 10 years. The association estimates that its industry collection and recycling plan would cost about R374 million to operate every year.
This includes approximately R100m to set up a recycling plant for fridges, R32m for a printer-cartridge and toner-bottle recycling plant, R26m for a CFL recycling plant and a further R112m for a battery recycling plant.
The association said the project could be funded in various ways, by spreading costs between taxpayers, consumers and producers.
* For more information, visit the downloads section of www.ewasa.org