The Vice-Chairman, E-Waste Relief Foundation (ERF), Prof. Oladele Osibanjo, has called for stringent measures and pragmatic policies to address the management of electronic waste in the country.
Osibanjo made the call on the sidelines of a one-day capacity building workshop organised for the informal sector on the handling and proper disposal of electronic waste (e-waste).
He described the influx of e-waste into the country and its adverse effect as alarming.
Osibanjo said that apart from climate change, e-waste had become one of the biggest environmental challenges facing the world in the 21st Century because of the pervasive influence of Information Communication Technology (ICT).
He listed that that two consequences of improper e-waste disposal as hormone disruption and confusion of the human immune system.
“The circuit board of electronics contains some hazardous contents like Lead, Mercury and Chromium, which are dangerous to humans and the environment. Furthermore, the plastic screen of electronics is impregnated with brominated flame retardants.
“These substances are persistent organic pollutants and they are released into the environment when these electronics are burnt.
“The chemicals are also carcinogenic endocrine disruptors (endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with endocrine or hormone systems at certain doses, causing cancerous tumours, birth defects, and other developmental disorders).
“This is why you can see an eight-year-old girl menstruating; it is caused by endocrine disruption, which has confused her immune system.
“This information is common knowledge in developed countries, which is why they tend to come and dump their e-waste in Africa,’’ he said.
Osibanjo stressed that e-waste produced globally and annually had reached “a near-Tsunami level’’, adding that in Nigeria, e-waste management was largely handled by the informal sector.
The professor urged governments and stakeholders to take a cue from the ERF by adequately training people in the informal sector on purposeful e-waste management.
“We can do everything on the phone now but the dark side of it is the unlimited production of e-waste.
“The original equipment manufacturers have become smarter and they manufacture their products not to last long. We call it rapid obsolescence.
“Previously, phones can last up to seven years but now after 18 months, it has to be changed and the waste pile grows; the problem now is the waste is so much and there is no space for them; so people resort to burning them,’’ he said.
Also speaking, the President of ERF, Dr Ifeanyi Ochonogor, said that the Foundation had trained 100 e-waste handlers in Lagos to boost their capacity in the management of e-waste.
He said that the objective of the programme was to upgrade the way the people in the informal sector handled e-waste, adding that e-waste had done a lot of harm to the country’s ozone layer and ecosystem in general.
“This training is necessary to forestall misconduct in the disposal of e-waste as they are toxic.
“The toxic waste release poison to the ozone layer, water and the environment; for instance, this happens when the handlers burn cables to get copper, which is poisonous, and the practice should be stopped.
“We are training 100 participants from Alaba market and Computer Village on how to properly handle e-waste.
“They are being trained by top government officials who know the implications of e-waste and are willing to do something about it,’’ he said.
Ochonogor also said that monitoring measures and quarterly programmes would be put in place, adding that the Foundation would network with different agencies to ensure that the training was effective.
He stressed that the monitoring activity would also ensure that the materials given to the handlers were judiciously utilised.
He commended the government for its efforts to streamline waste management and called for its increased participation in the e-waste management programme via the provision of basic tools that were needed to manage e-waste effectively.
By Stellamaris Ashinze