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E-waste: The growing environment threat in Uganda

By Vision Reporter

Added 17th July 2014

When I sat on my phone a few weeks ago, one look at the screen told me it was beyond repair. The only question remaining was what funeral to give to my dead ex-best friend. Rather, how best to dispose my old dead lovely phone.

By Agatha Ninsiima
 
When I accidentally sat on my phone a few weeks ago, one look at the screen told me it was beyond repair. The only question remaining was what funeral to give to my dead ex-best friend. Rather, how best to dispose my old dead lovely phone.
 
Normally, I would just toss it in the rubbish bin.
 
Having read, reviewed and advocated for the implementation of the E-Waste Policy of 2012, I wanted to find out how I could recycle or safely dispose my dead phone without hurting the environment.
 
E-waste covers everything electronic we throw away, from the smallest battery, phone, watch to the largest computer or a television set. For most Ugandans, it has come to mean that obsolete phones, or slow computers that, two years ago, were the fastest ever available are dumped for new ones.
 
All over the world, e-waste has become the fastest growing type of rubbish. Each day, we buy new gadgets as technology continues to advance.
 
Did you know that your phone, in addition to being made with mercury, lead, arsenic, and glass, contains valuable amounts of gold, platinum, silver, and copper? In China, recycling these minerals from their e-waste is now an economic sector worth over billions of dollars every year.
 
Right now, in Uganda, our e-waste is just pilling up inside and outside our communities. We need a comprehensive legal framework that coordinates policy to turn that junk back into gold, and here's how we can do it in three easy steps:
 
Step 1: Develop a comprehensive and easily-enforceable legal standard in cooperation with the community, small businesses, local townships, and government agencies to deal with e-waste.
 
Step 2: Return enforcement proceeds to a sovereign wealth fund that provides fixed-interest rate loans to successful small recycling businesses seeking to expand their operations.
 
Step 3: Profit from consistent law, with positive profit motives of enforcement, while getting the benefit of watching businessmen fight with each other as they clean our streets.
 
As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Let's find a way to treasure our beautiful and clean Uganda.
The Writer is a lawyer and project advocate at Advocates for Natural Resources Governance and Development (ANARDE).
 
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