In a recent local TV show, an official from the landfill in Dakar informed the public of the excellent work they had done in partnership with NGOs such as Enda-Ecopole, and how they had sensitised the public on the issue of waste management.
But the dump in Dakar, Mbeubeuss, and others like Colobane and Reubeuss, collect daily quantities of valuable electronic scrap which are, paradoxically, the delight of waste pickers. Moreover, the proliferation of information and communications technology (ICT) products in homes and offices means more energy is consumed – and electricity is a rare commodity in Senegal.
In July 2009, Sénéclic,1 the executive body that deals with electronic waste (ewaste) in Senegal, commissioned a study on ewaste. A year later, what has been done in response to this study? Have the recommendations, including the establishment of a waste unit, been considered or implemented?
Policy and legislative context
The “preservation of a healthy environment” is enshrined in Senegal’s constitution. Article 8 stipulates that "every man is entitled to a healthy environment.” At the international level, Senegal has signed and ratified the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and the Basel Ban Amendment, and in November 1999, it developed a national plan for waste management.
Senegal is also the headquarters for the Basel Convention Regional Centre for Francophone countries in Africa. Operational since 1999, the Regional Centre focuses on the environmentally sound management of chemicals and hazardous waste. All these indicate that there is real commitment and political will in the country to deal with hazardous waste.
The Environmental Code is the principal legal instrument for the management of waste. However, the country has no specific regulations on the management of ewaste.
The threat of e-waste
The exponential take-up of ICTs in developing countries, and especially the introduction and success of mobile telephony, has meant growing piles of unprocessed old technology. This is worsened by the import of second-hand equipment from developed countries. One of the greatest concerns is that some of this waste finds its way into the countries as “development aid”.2
The growth of ewaste in Senegal is causing some alarm, with reports predicting that countries like Senegal and Uganda can expect a four- to eight-fold increase of ewaste from PCs alone by 2020.3
In order to reduce the consequences of ewaste, Senegal has launched two initiatives: the first by Enda-Ecopole and the second by Sénéclic.4 The Sénéclic initiative, in particular, offers best practices that can be shared with other developing countries.
Launched on 10 January 2008, the Sénéclic initiative aims to recycle all electronic waste at its end of life. The initiative is supported by the Global Digital Solidarity Fund (DSF) and benefits from the technical expertise of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa).
Sénéclic has adopted an inclusive approach when establishing its national strategic committee. There is a representative from almost all government departments, and the committee includes non-governmental organisations, academics, and the private sector. The committee was essential in advising, facilitating and networking during the ewaste baseline study.
The study was carried out by the African Institute of Urban Management (AIUM) in Dakar, which has already done similar studies on solid and hazardous waste in many countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and the Comoros Islands. Empa’s first mission to Senegal was held from 6 to 11 January 2008. The aim of the visit was to define the scope of the work, and to set up coordination and planning groups for the study.
For these reasons, meetings were held with the National Employers Council, the Observatory on Information Systems, Networks and Information Highways in Senegal (OSIRIS), the Organisation of ICT Professionals (OPTIC), the Institute of Environmental Sciences (ISE), the Agency for State Informatics (ADIE), and Enda-Ecopole. Visits to the Mbeubeuss landfill and the second-hand market in Reubeuss were also carried out.
The study was interested in three types of ewaste: computers (including laptops) and their peripherals; televisions; and mobile phones. It aimed to assess the total flow of ewaste entering Senegal, the estimated useful life of electrical and electronic equipment in households, public and private institutions, and disposal habits and patterns.
It was clear from the findings that there was a need to set up an ewaste management system, given that in the absence of an organised network, unsafe recycling activities thrived in the informal sector. Sénéclic is seeking funding for the establishment of the ewaste management chain and will work with any organisation, government or entity wishing to invest in this sector.
A regional workshop was held at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar on 13 and 14 July 2010. The workshop, with the title "The management and recycling of ewaste in West Africa: The cases of Benin, Mali and Senegal", was held under the auspices of the ISE. For this workshop, an exploratory research study was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) which explored issues relating to the management and recovery of ewaste in the West African sub-region.
According to a media statement, during the Dakar meeting, the scientific community agreed to "an overall assessment in relation to the basic international documents relating to the subject, which should lead to strategic actions focused on the institutionalisation and regulation of ewaste, including its economic and social management."5
Indeed, a legal framework is necessary to define the roles and responsibilities of each actor in the ewaste chain (i.e. producers, distributors, consumers, players in the recycling of ewaste and the authorities). The extended producer responsibility principle is also worth considering. At the same time, legislation should ideally also ban the import of electronic devices more than five years old.
The following recommendations can be made:
- Provide environmental education through community information centres and community radio.
- Convince social partners of their responsibility to put pressure on policy makers to address environmental problems. It should be stressed that the situation will become so severe that it will threaten the economy and that it is the responsibility of politicians to act now to prevent business disasters and end the vicious cycle of ignorance.
- Establish partnerships with the private sector to develop more efficient technologies in recycling and energy.
- Promote scientific studies to implement new measures to fight against the negative effects of ewaste.
- Establish a structure for recycling ewaste in Senegal in collaboration with the government, the private sector and NGOs.
- Implement the extended producer responsibility principle.
2 Fadjri, W. (2009) Gestion des déchets électroniques: Le danger des ordinateurs, frigos, téleviseurs… venant d’Europe, Balancing Act, French edition, 103, March. www.balancingact-africa.com/node/15920
4 Présidence de la République/Sénéclic (2009) Lancement du projet ewaste au Sénégal. www.Sénéclic.com/html/Sénéclic.php?xx_rubrique=Objectif&xx_texte_id=1015
5 Agence de Presse Sénégalaise (2010) Plaidoyer pour la prise en charge des déchets toxiques par l’Université, allAfrica.com, 13 July. fr.allafrica.com/stories/201007130977.html