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E-waste adds to mountain of problems counties face

By RUTH MBULA
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By ELGAR MACHUKA
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Electronic waste disposal is the latest headache to counties, which are already grappling with poor refuse collection and dumping.

County officials blame cheaper imports and launch of e-government services as factors contributing to huge chunks of e-waste.

The increasing number of higher learning institutions, all equipped with electronics, is yet another factor.

In Kisii, the county government recently launched a joint programme with Kisii University and the East African Compliance Recycling (EARC) to establish an e-waste collection centre.

Noble idea

But the devolved unit is still overwhelmed with waste, making the centre’s launch a noble idea which needs expansion.

Kisii County director of environment Alexander Obwocha said waste management, especially electronic waste, is a national problem.

“In addition to that, the collection centre is yet to be well utilised as people still mix up household and electronic waste,” Mr Obwocha said.

“With over 10 university campuses in the county, the number of electronic gadgets continues to rise each day, increasing the burden of e-waste,” Mr Obwocha said.

He said it has been a challenge convincing people to separate household waste from electronic waste.

Kenya churns out 11,400 tonnes of old refrigerators, 2,800 tonnes of TVs, 2,500 tonnes of personal computers, 500 tonnes of printers and 150 tonnes of mobile phones every year.

Sustainable livelihood

Vicky Onderi, a director at EARC, a consultancy firm on e-waste management, said the project also aims at keeping the environment clean and creating a sustainable livelihood.

“The quantity of waste in tonnes cannot be ignored, lest we get serious environmental and health impacts. We are yet to determine the quantity of e-waste in Kisii County,” she added.

The National Environment Management Authority (Nema) has so far licensed two recycling centres, and one facility to handle old fluorescent bulbs.  

UN regional environmental director Julliet Biao said e-waste poses a serious hazard to human health and the environment when dumped in landfills or improperly recycled.

She said that in Africa, e-waste recycling is performed by the informal and unorganised sector that uses improper techniques such as burning to recover metals. This emits toxic fumes.

“Of particular concern is the burning of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) at low temperatures, as this may lead to generation of extremely toxic chemicals called polybrominated dibenzodioxins (PBDDs) and furans (PBDFs),” said Ms Biao.

On Tuesday, the four counties of Kisii, Kisumu, Nyamira and Homa Bay pored over the problem of waste disposal. The officials agreed on a joint programme.

Kisumu, Kisii, Nyamira and Homa Bay Counties — which have all been grappling with waste management challenges — will henceforth coordinate their waste disposal with the National Environmental Authority.

County representatives from the four regions, under the Lake Victoria Basin, met for a day-long workshop at Zonic Hotel in Kisii town where they admitted that proper waste management could be one way of attracting investors.

Car washing sites

Kisii county director of environment Alexander Obwocha said they would soon have a new machine to clean water at car washing sites.

“The machine will separate soap and oil from the water in major rivers,” he said.

Nema chief environment officer Robert Orina said besides disposal of solid waste in undesignated areas, pollution of water sources poses a major threat to the environment.

“Car washing business is a major water pollutant. We are looking for long-term solutions that will seek behavioural change among people living and working near water sources,” he said.

“The Kachok dumpsite is still a major problem but stakeholders are addressing the issue,” said Kisumu environment officer Osiemo Ngira.

Besides lack of a designated waste disposal site, and car washing menace, disposal of illicit brew in River Kisat is polluting Lake Victoria.

Homa Bay County lacks a designated dumpsite, with County director of environment John Maniafu decrying the huge volume of solid waste.

“We are working to acquire a site. This is a challenge because no one wants a dumpsite near their vicinity,” he said.

Nyamira County is also grappling with waste water disposal and transportation of effluent to a sewage plant in Suneka, Kisii County.

Ms Fanice Mose, the county’s director for administration of the environment, said they were working on a long-term solution.