Environmentally Sound Disposal and Recycling of E-waste in Ghana (E-Waste project)

Project description

Title: Environmentally Sound Disposal and Recycling of E-waste in Ghana (E-Waste project)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Ghana
Overall term: 2016 to 2020

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Context

Population growth, increasing prosperity and changing consumption habits in Ghana are leading to increasing amounts of electrical and electronic waste – e-waste for short. In addition, a large number of imported second-hand appliances with a comparatively short remaining life are in use in Ghana. An estimated 15 per cent of these appliances are already broken when they enter the country.

Ghana does not have a sustainable, efficient recycling system for dealing with and disposing of e-waste. The digital waste dump Old Fadama in the capital Accra, is famous throughout the world as an example of improper recycling of e-waste and the environmental and health problems this entails. The soil and surface water are heavily polluted by heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants. When electrical cables are burnt, toxic gases are formed, often causing respiratory diseases. In addition, greenhouse gases are emitted, for example as a result of the improper recycling of refrigerators.

The Ghanaian Government has recognised this challenge and adopted the Hazardous and Electronic Waste Control and Management Act 2016 (ACT 917), thus creating the legal framework for more sustainable e-waste management.

Recycling and reuse of e-waste in Ghana is organised almost exclusively on an informal basis at present. It provides a livelihood for a great many people, but it has a severe impact on people's health and the environment. Materials that are of no value to the informal waste collectors and processors are burnt or disposed of illegally in the countryside with no regard for local or global repercussions. This method is cheap in the short term and gives the informal sector an economic advantage over the recycling industry, which complies with environmental, health and social standards.

The potential of informal recycling is huge: the current system is used to collect 95 per cent of Ghana's e-waste. Moreover, the informal sector provides a source of income and employment for unskilled disadvantaged young people, particularly for those who move to the capital Accra from the north of the country.

Objective

The framework for sustainable e-waste management in Ghana has improved.

Approach

The project is assisting the Ghanaian Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) in improving the framework for sustainable e-waste management.

The following areas of activity reflect the project's three levels of intervention:

  • The policy framework for sustainable management of e-waste is improved at macro level.
  • Economically viable business models are introduced and developed at meso level. This is kick-starting and promoting a sustainable e-waste recycling sector.
  • Through capacity development, informal sector players at micro level are enabled to make e-waste management more sustainable and less damaging to the environment and the population's health.

In addition, measures are being implemented to allow the various stakeholders to share their experiences and to set up networks.

A multi-stakeholder approach was selected to achieve the joint programme objective. Political institutions at national and local level, the private sector and the informal sector are all included:

  • The project focuses on capacity development for the partner institutions at individual and organisational level. The stakeholders are to be enabled to introduce and apply legal instruments relating to e-waste management. Capacity development at MESTI and at the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in particular is designed to enable them to set up a system of extended manufacturer's responsibility. The aim is to support the partner organisations in creating the recycling fund provided for in the national e-waste legislation through which sustainable recycling of old electrical appliances is to be financed in future. Fees charged to manufacturers and importers when electrical and electronic devices are put into circulation are to be fed into the system. In addition, the project supports the partner organisations in setting up an electronic register to record producers and distributors of electrical and electronic products.
  • Technical and in-process advice is provided to promote the development and introduction of economically viable business models for recycling and disposing of e-waste. Political and private sector decision-makers are enabled to develop and assess technological and business options for e-waste management, including operator models. The project supports a joint understanding of appropriate technical solutions and their financial, social and environmental impacts through comprehensive communication and network activities.
  • The project promotes the individual and organisational skills of people and companies directly involved in recycling and disposal processes. Individuals indirectly affected by the impacts of the current recovery of resources from e-waste are also involved. The project provides training in recycling and disposal methods less damaging to the environment and people's health for e-waste collectors and recyclers who are open to change. A better understanding of the negative impacts of current practices on health and the environment promotes the use of occupational safety measures.

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