Managing the flows of waste from end-of-life electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), known as e-waste in developing countries like Uganda has become one of the major challenges of the continent in the field of waste management (Schluep et al., 2007). This is mainly due to lack of capacity to handle and recycle the hazardous materials contained in e-waste (Sansa-Otim et al., 2013). Furthermore, disposal of e-waste in dumpsites pollutes the environment, creating health hazards to the nearby community. Additionally, e-waste contains toxic materials that can pose danger to the human respiratory system, reproductive system, circulatory system, and nervous system. These challenges are exacerbated by the increasing generation of e-waste due to continuous increase in market demand for EEE, with continuous decline in the life span/ replacement interval of such products (Ilankoon et al., 2018).
The Government of Uganda recognized the challenges posed by e-waste and put in place an enabling environment to facilitate its sustainable management. For example, there are e-waste provisions in the National Environment Act, 2019 and waste management Regulations 2020. The E-Waste Management Policy 2012, E-Waste Management Strategic Plan and E-Waste Guidelines 2016 are also in place. Furthermore, the Government established a National Steering Committee on e-waste management and a National E-waste Management Facility. However, gaps especially in data on e-waste generation still exists. It is against this background that this article reviewed and analysed the e-waste situation in Uganda to establish current e-waste flows, existing e-waste management approaches, and project future e-waste generation.
The value chain and massflow of EEE in Uganda
The various stakeholders along the EEE value chain in Uganda (Fig 1) include; Manufacturers/Assemblers, distributors, consumers, collectors, refurbishers, recyclers and disposal. The current mass flows for EEE in Uganda were estimated for the year 2021. As per UNEP. (2007) classification, the scope of EEE considered under this article include; Large household appliances (LHH), Small household appliances (SHH), Consumer equipment (CE), IT and Telecommunication (IT) and Automatic dispensers (Dispensers).
Figure 1: Flow of EEE and e-waste along the value chain in Uganda
Manufacturing of EEE in Uganda in electrical cables and electric lights. In some cases, parts of electrical appliances are imported for assembling into a complete electrical appliance. Distributors including retailers and whole sellers import most of the EEE used in Uganda (Fig 2). According to information from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), in 2021, EEE placed on the market was 32,803.57tons and comprised of 0.612% as second hand. Therefore, the total quantities of EEE placed on the market comprised of 200.76tons of second hand and 32,602.81tons of new EEE.
Figure 2: Composition of imported EEE in Uganda in 2021
Analysis of primary data obtained through a survey carried out in selected parts of the country revealed that most consumers of imported EEE are Households (39.49%), followed by Private Organisations and Institutions (30.72%) and Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) (29.79%). A mass balance carried out at each consumers established the quantities of new EEE as 12,874.85tons in Households, 10,015.58tons in Private Organisations and Institutions and 9,712.38 tons in Government MDAs. The primary data was also important in estimating the installed base of EEE at households as 217,130.03tons, government as 163,795.99tons and private sector as 168,909.46tons.
E-waste generation in Uganda
E-waste generation can occur at any stage of the value chain as per the perception of the stakeholder. Analysis of primary data on amount of EEE not in use (regarded as e-waste) revealed that e-waste generation is highest at the consumption stage (87.07%) followed by refurbishment (11.46%) and least at recycling stage (1.46%) (table 1). At the consumption stage, e-waste generation is highest at household level (36,400.95tons representing 47.65%) followed by private sector (24,481.28tons representing 32.05%) and least at Government level (15,508.18tons representing 20.30%).
E-waste management approaches in Uganda
At the consumption stage, faulty EEE is repaired and either returned to the owner or sold off as second hand. In case the faulty EEE cannot be repaired, repair shops just obtain useful spare parts and dismantle the rest to obtain base metals and useful components that are sold to scrap dealers. The informal sector dominates e-waste collection and recycling and is already recovering valuable components including copper, Aluminium and PCB boards, that are either sold to local recyclers or exported (Murthy and Seeram 2022). According to Schluep et al., (2008), formal recycling of e-waste does not exist in Uganda. However, there are a few formal e-waste recycling companies in Uganda that use components from e-waste (Iron and steel or scrap metal, Aluminum) as input material.
Analysis of the perceptions of different stakeholders as expressed in the survey revealed that the most common e-waste management approach is storage (51.86%) followed by dumping (11.50%), selling to scrap (9.61%), recycling (8.85%), auctioning (7.44%), selling as second hand (5.80%), donations (3.09), with the least being leaving e-waste at repair shops (1.85%). These findings are in line with a similar study carried out in Kampala by Nuwamanya, 2012 that identified storage as the most common method of e-waste management. Using data obtained from the survey, and carrying out mass balances, the quantities of e-waste at these different management approaches were established as indicated in table 1.
Table 1: Distribution of e-waste along the different management approaches
|E-waste management approaches||Management of e-waste generated at consumption stage (tons).||Management of e-waste generated at refurbishment stage (tons)||Management of e-waste generated at recycling stage (tons)||Total e-waste (tons) present at different management approaches|
|Selling to scrap dealers||8,104.17||324.70||8,428.87|
|Selling to second hand||4,935.30||149.85||5,085.15|
|Left at repair shops||1,623.48||1,623.48|
|Taken for recycling||7,767.11||7,767.11|
|Total E-waste generated||76,390.44||10,052.36||1,294.78|
Future E-waste trends
Future flows of E-waste were projected using data on e-waste generated for the period 1999 to 2018 (UBOS. 2020) (Fig 3) for the entire country. The projections show that potential e-waste generation (e-waste at disposal) in 2025 could be somewhere between 24,754.51 (linear growth) and 35,514.86 (polynomial growth).
Conclusion and Recommendations
The situation analysis showed that e-waste generation is highest at consumption stage and that most of the generated e-waste is just stored. This could be associated with personal attachment, lack of awareness on the health impacts associated with e-waste and no incentives for e-waste collection and disposal as identified by a similar study carried out by Nuwematsiko et al., 2021. This calls for public education and awareness creation to change attitudes towards a more responsible management of e-waste. The dominance of the informal sector in e-waste collection and recycling exposes gaps, which could lead to various diseases and irreparable damage to the environment. There is need to formalize the informal actors or at least connect them to formal operations for proper e-waste management as well as promote fair local e-waste markets. There is also a need to shift towards circular economy for electronics through adoption of different business models such as; take back systems, advanced recycling and recapturing and urban mining.
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