Accra – Ghana, April 2016: Ghana has long been known for being one of Africa’s e-waste hot spots. The huge challenge from unsound recycling and disposal was presented in media channels all over the world. But now, Ghana is taking very important steps towards more sustainable management and recycling of electronic waste. In a two day workshop-series organized by the Swiss-funded SRI-project and supported by Germany, policy-makers, industry representatives, civil society organizations and scientist elaborated on new procedures and financing mechanisms for sound e-waste recycling.
On 16th of March this year, the Hazardous and electronic waste control and management bill was laid before the Ghanaian Parliament. The bill lays the ground for a new and innovative strategy for managing hazardous e-waste. While the first part of the bill provides strong legal instruments to clamp down on illegal e-waste imports, the second part is the basis for setting up an own and environmentally sound e-waste recycling industry. This second part is necessary because devices such as computers, fridges and mobile phones increasingly became part of the daily lives in Ghana. And with this development, also the domestically generated e-waste volumes are constantly growing.
Up to now, e-waste was mostly recycled without any measures to protect human health and the environment. Such measures are costly and only few recyclers had the means to introduce them in their operations. With the new bill, these additional costs must be carried by those who bring electrical and electronic equipment onto the Ghanaian market. Every individual and company importing such products into Ghana must pay a levy that will be used to finance environmentally sound collection and recycling. John Pwamang, Deputy Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stresses that this financing mechanism is in line with the globally accepted principle of Extended Producer Responsibility: “This concept says that the burden for sound recycling shall not be carried by the society, but by those who initially introduced the products and earned money with this business. Ghana has deliberately chosen this approach as it is the only way that can help us making sound recycling a profitable business in Ghana.”
The process ahead
But even if the bill is passed, not all problems will be automatically solved. Then the bill will have to be translated in practical systems. “We need to make sure that importers are aware of their new duties, that they register with our systems and that the collected levies are managed in a transparent manner.” Says Mr. Lambert Faabeluon, Director for Standards Compliance & Enforcement at EPA. According to him, there are important decisions to be taken: “After all, we need to identify the best way to make proper use of the collected funds. Of course, we want to channel hazardous materials into registered and sound treatment facilities. But we also have the large number of informal recyclers who want to make a living out of their scrap business. We have to find ways to integrate them into the new system.”
In order to tackle these important challenges, the Swiss funded project Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) has organised a two day workshop-series on 6-7 April 2016 where policy-makers, industry-representatives, civil society organizations and scientists jointly elaborated on the best options to translate the new legislative framework into practice. The event was hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and opened by the honourable Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Mahama Ayariga. As the SRI-project is embedded in the bilateral co-operation between Switzerland and Ghana, the Embassy of Switzerland to Ghana was also present at the event and introduced into the bilateral co-operation between the two countries. Since the workshops were also supported by Germany and in light of their planned engagement in the e-waste and recycling sector, the German ambassador to Ghana, Mr. Rüdiger John also joined the opening and highlighted some of the planned German-Ghanaian initiatives. Both countries coordinate their engagement closely among them as well as with the EPA in order to assure that the priorities of Ghana are met.