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Nigeria’s Used Electronics Refurbishing Sector Generates $50.8m Yearly

March 18, 2012

UN Studies Unveil Global Warming And Waste Problems In West Africa

THE used electronics refurbishing sector in Lagos generates $50.8million per year, which is equivalent to 0.015% of Nigeria’s gross domestic product, according to a new study.

It was gathered that many refurbishing enterprises pay taxes and fees to the local government, and Lagos’ State Government, and it was calculated on the basis of the interview results that these taxes summed up to $419,000 annually.

In the past few years, waste management experts in Europe, America and Africa have been trying to specifically tackle the problem of electronic wastes, which are shipped into Africa annually.

Figures released by Basel Convention on Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes showed that in 2010, about 1.2million tones of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) were shipped into Nigeria.

In the new study, it was found that no fewer than six million refrigerators older than 10 years in service are in Nigeria and they mostly contain Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — the gas implicated in the depletion of the ozone layer —the oxygen-like layer that shields the earth from ultra violet rays (UVR) of the sun, according to a new study.

EXPERTS who studied waste management practices in Nigeria and other parts of the world in recent times noted that these end-of-life management of the refrigerators and freezers used in West African countries, both in private households, shops and bars, is of considerable environmental importance because most devices manufactured before 1993 contain refrigerants and foam blowing agents with a high Ozone depleting rate and greenhouse gas potential.

“Although the refrigerants and foaming agents are not directly hazardous to human health, the potential green house gas emissions from crude recycling or untreated disposal are very high,” said the experts.

The new study tagged; Informal e-waste management in Lagos, Nigeria-Socio-economic impacts and feasibility of international recycling co-operations was carried out by Andreas Manhart of Oko-Institute, Germany; Prof. Oladele Osibanjo, Basel Convention Centre, University of Ibadan, and Siddhart Prakash of Oko Institute. There were other experts from; Basel Convention Regional Centre, Dakar, Senegal; Swiss Federal Laboratory of Materials Science and Technology (EMPA); the European Union; Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Law (IMPEL) the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organsization (UNESCO) and the partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE).

The Study was funded by European Commission, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Dutch Recyclers Association (NVMP) and the Basel Convention Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.

The experts looked into the problems of waste management, dumping of obsolete electronic equipment as well as computers in West Africa. They went to Alaba Market; Ikeja Computer Village; Westminster market; Lawanson market as well as dump sites scattered all over Lagos and the facilities of Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA).

The experts also visited the ports at Tin Can Island and later organised a workshop at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos. The Guardian and the BBC London were part of the training team that went with the experts to Tin Can port with some customs and police officers —who were sensitised on the problem of electronic waste. NESREA was also part of the collaborators on the project.

It was gathered that the study  was developed in the framework of the project entitled “Building local capacity to address the flow of e-wastes and electrical and electronic products destined for reuse in selected African countries and augment the sustainable management of resources through the recovery of materials in e-wastes.”

Lagos, the experts said, was chosen for the study because the it is one of the world’s largest cities and the economic centre of Nigeria with a population of about 17.5 million inhabitants and considerable economic growth rates. Besides, the city has developed into “West Africa’s main entry point for used and end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment. The experts observed that although some of the equipments are refurbished and sold to households and traders from Nigeria, West and other Central African countries, this sector generates significant volume of electronic waste.

The experts studied refurbishing, collection, and recycling of used and end-of-life e-products at Alaba Market, Ikeja Computer Village, which comprises 2,500 and 3,000 small businesses, Westminster Market located close to the Tin Can Port in Lagos.

According to the experts, the results from project component show that 70 per cent of all the imported used equipment is functional and sold to consumers after testing. Also 70 per cent of the non-functional share can be repaired within the major markets and; is sold to consumers. Nine of the total imports of used equipment is non-repairable and is directly passed on to collectors and recyclers.

The studies show that the e-waste collection and recycling activities in Lagos are largely organised around the main sources of obsolete electrical and electronic products. It noted that most of these activities are carried out by informal waste collectors (commonly referred to as ‘scavengers’) who move all around Lagos with handcarts collecting e-waste together with other metal-containing wastes.

It was learnt  that those involved in the business normally paid between $2.22 and 3.36 per day, which is mostly better than the average income of e-waste collectors and recyclers, who earn between $0.22 and 3.36 per day and that persons working in the refurbishing sector often have the possibility to set-up their own small business, which often increases their daily income to around $6.72 to 22.2. The sector, according to the experts has its own apprenticeship system, which produces around 2,000 alumni per year.

“Around 8,000 refurbishing enterprises operate in Lagos, giving work to an estimated number of 21,600 people, “said the report.

The experts added that the potentials of waste management can be realised by the recovery of CFCs and HFCs from cooling circuits and foams and subsequent destruction of these Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) in dedicated facilities. They said in addition that the sound management of hazardous components and a better utilisation of the plastic fraction add to the benefits of sound refrigerator recycling.

The experts went to Ojota scrap market and found that it is not just a site for scrap materials, but also a centre for dismantling and sorting activities. They discovered that there are also some simple houses and shops that sell goods for the daily needs of the recycling community while the “Olusosun dumpsite, which was established in 1992, is reputed as one of Africa’s largest dumpsite.”

The Alaba Market, according to the experts, is the biggest refurbishing cluster in West Africa, and it also produces a lot of waste from devices and components that cannot be repaired or that were used as a supply of spare parts.

Consequently, “the metal containing waste fractions are sold to a network of informal collectors who move around the market.”

From their studies, the experts found that “the monthly income for collectors and recyclers ranges from N1,000 to N15,000 ($6.70 to 100). Generally, it can be observed that those collectors that have enough financial resources to pay for obsolete devices and components have a significant higher income than those that solely have access to freely available waste.”

They also discovered that “while the first group earns between N7,500 and N15,000 a month ($50 to 100), the latter group has a monthly income as low as N1,000 to N2,000 ($6.70 to 13.40)” and that these income figures actually reflect the profit margin generated by collectors and recyclers at the end of the month, that is the investment for buying obsolete equipments and the rent for handcarts deducted from the money earned from reselling the recycling products.

The experts recommended the setting up of one or more e-waste recycling demonstration projects in Lagos because the initiatives would help to overcome some of the current obstacles for improvements and shall also provide a platform for learning and demonstration.

Tatiana Terekhova, Programme Officer, Basel Convention on Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, Geneva, Switzerland told The Guardian in an interview that dumping of wastes in contravention of the Convention are illegal and; that illegal traffic is to be considered a crime under the national legal frameork. Terekhova said that one of the challenges  relevant to electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) is distinguishing between used electronic and electrical equipment a second-hand good or a waste. She noted that currently, the lack of clear, commonly agreed and binding criteria to distinguish second-hand EEE from e-waste hampers the work of enforcement officers, especially during the shipment of EEE and during visual inspections.

According to her, two years ago, the EEE import to Nigeria reached 1.2 million tonnes which is nearly five times higher than in Ghana, which imported 250,000 tonnes. Joseph Sarfo Domfeh, Project Manager at the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority told The Guardian that it’s not acceptable to ship electronic wastes to Africa but regretted that some of those who ship obsolete electronic equipments to the continent are also Africans.

Domfeh said that even in Europe, some Africans move around to pick the items or buy them on the internet before they ship them to Africa.  Some of the obsolete items, he said, can be deadly noting that if you take some of the chemicals from the television tube, it contains lead.

“Lead affects the organs, kidneys. It can even affect the development of foetus. We also know that some of the plastics contain POP (Persistent Organic Pollutants) and what happens is that when you burn these plastics, you will be releasing Dioxins,” he said.

Mr. Klaus Willke, State Ministry for Urban Development and Environment, Hamburg, Germany who was in Nigeria for the workshop on e-waste and visited the Tin Can Port, Alaba Market and Computer Village, said that the European Union was worried about the illegal export of electronic wastes to Africa because the continent does not have the technology to treat e-waste in environmentally safe manner.

Also present at the training programme were; Prof. Oladele Osibanjo, Olori Funke Babade, Director, Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja.


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