Kenya faces electronic waste time bomb
Kenya is in the league of countries that are headed for an environmental implosion as the take up of electronic gadgets rises among its population without proper mechanisms to dispose of obsolete ones.
Environmentalists warn that unregulated disposal of electronic waste – commonly known as e-waste – with toxic elements that can persist for hundreds of years is particularly alarming given the expected rise in volumes in the next decade.
Electronic waste, made up of disused computers, televisions, VCRs, stereos, copiers, fax machines and mobile phones, has become one of the fastest growing segments of Kenya’s total refuse, according to the National Environment Management Authority (Nema).
Concern is growing that failure to manage this waste is exposing Kenya to long-term and costly environmental damage whose impact will be felt in the emergence of new diseases, change in weather patterns and food insecurity and will take many decades to reverse.
Often left to rot in informal dumping sites, electronic gadgets are made up of some of the most lethal toxins such as cadmium, mercury and lead that are known to contaminate water sources, reduce fertility of land, and damage human tissues and organs.
In Nairobi, the impact of this carefree disposal of e-waste is already beginning to be felt in Dandora estate where contact with dumpsite material has seen a steep rise in the number of children diagnosed with lead poisoning.
Dandora is the host of Nairobi’s biggest dumpsite that takes most of the 4,000 tonnes of garbage that the city residents generate daily.
In the absence of proper means of disposal, most Kenyans have resorted to burning as their preferred method of disposing of electronic waste increasing their danger to the environment.
Incinerating discarded electronic gadgets merely releases harmful metals into the ground and the atmosphere because the metals cannot completely decompose even with exposure to fire.
These realities now require that the country finds rapid and workable solutions to its growing mounds of e-waste if it is to avoid future disaster.