National awareness training on end of life Electric & Electronic Equipment (EEE) towards sustainable E-waste management

In Bugesera ,Rwanda on 2nd and 3rd Dec ,EnviroServe Rwanda in partnership with GGGI, and Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) conducted a 2 day training to train 100 staff from various public and private institutions generating e-waste countrywide. The targeted staff were Corporate Services/HR, Procurement, and IT from different public and private institutions (70) and districts (30) to raise awareness on proper e-waste management, health and safety, asset disposal procedures by Rwanda Housing Authority and the government regulations governing e-waste management in Rwanda.

The digital revolution has led to an enormous production and an extensive use of electrical, electronic equipment wastes (EEE) in the 21st Century. Due to the current rapid urbanization, economic growth and modernization in Rwanda, the distribution of electrical and electronic waste has also significantly increased. This is mostly due to the growing dependency on the use of ICT in all sectors of the economy including mobile communication, education, health, finance, and service delivery. Therefore, proper handling of e-waste is an emerging challenge as some e-waste contains toxic and hazardous substances such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and selenium among the others which poses severe threats and risks to human health and to the environment if not properly handled and disposed of. That said, E-waste cannot be handled in the same way as general wastes because of its unique composition, which include non-biodegradable materials and hazardous components that can be harmful to the environment and human health. This requires specialized disposal methods, skills, and special treatment facilities. As per national E-waste policy, for the survey conducted revealed that from 2010 to 2014, import of ICT equipment increased by 5 times and Rwanda has potential annual e-waste generation of 9,417 tons of which 7,677 tons (81.52%) are contributed by individuals, 1,143 tons (12.14%) by public institutions and 597 tons (6.34%) by private institutions. For proper handling of e-waste generated in the country, through a partnership with the Rwanda Green Fund and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the facility is protecting millions from the hazardous threat of e-waste, providing peace of mind to electronic and electrical equipment users across the region through the proper and environmentally friendly management of electronic and electrical waste.

In terms of enforcement, there is also a regulation governing e-waste management in Rwanda. It sets out framework for electrical and electronic waste management and prohibits the auctioning of end of life electrical and electronic equipment to non-licensed companies to prevent hazardous substance contained within e-waste to end up in the informal sector and contaminate our environment and human health. Despite such efforts of enacting regulation and working partnership with the Government of Rwanda, its relevant agencies on building a sustainable E-waste management ecosystem in Rwanda, there is a very low compliance rate at 30% by most of the Government Institutions and Districts regarding proper disposal of E-waste, lack of understanding and implementation of the disposal procedures set by the Government.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a central engine driving Rwanda’s transformation to a knowledge-based economy. Also, urbanization rate, population growth and economic activities are increasing, thus enormous different waste including e-waste are as well increasing countrywide. Over the years the inventory conducted in 2014 on electrical, electronic equipment (EEE) indicated that importation of EEE in the country was increasing dramatically. Therefore, for proper management of resulted e-waste, together GGGI, Enviroserve and RURA planned a national awareness training on end-of-life EEE to various public and private institutions with huge potential for generating more e-waste in the country.

The first day consisted of two presentations from Enviroserve and Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), respectively. The first presentation was about introduction to E-waste, including its definitions, classification, relevant legal frameworks, and achievements of Enviroserve in terms of E-waste management in Rwanda. The second presentation was about E-waste regulations in Rwanda and its regulatory institution, RURA. The presentation focused on the related regulations that the Government of Rwanda has put in place in terms of E-waste management and treatment, as well as the punishment stipulated in the given regulations.

On day 2 of the training the first presentation  focused on health and safety issues of E-waste management and was delivered by Enviroserve. The presenter once again emphasized on the necessity of carefully handling the E-waste since most of them are made with heavy metals. The audience learned from this presentation that if these heavy metals are inadequately treated, toxic substances will be released, which will result in environmental pollution and health hazards of those who work for the E-waste management. And the participants were informed of various safety measures in each phase of E-waste management, ranging from E-waste collection, transportation, treatment, and de-pollution. The presenter touched  on proper housekeeping for e-waste using (5S): Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain and advised participants to use the same strategy as it ensures proper e-waste management at the generation point before collection.

Followed by the Enviroserve presentation was from Rwanda Housing Authority (RHA). The presentation dealt with Public Assets Disposal Procedures (PADP) in relation to E-waste generated from public institutions. The presenter first introduced to the audience about the competent Government regulations governing PADP. The participants were also informed of the template for applying for assets evaluation and concluded his presentation by mentioning the current challenges and some of measures to overcome such challenges. The last presentation was on waste to resource: improving municipal solid waste and hazardous waste in Rwanda on the component of e-waste presented by Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). The project will put more focus on improving e-waste collection rate in both City of Kigali and Secondary Cities by installing e-waste collection points and tracking systems. After the presentations, the participants were invited to the E-waste management facility in Bugesera district, guided by the manager of Enviroserve. The manager demonstrated some of the E-waste management procedures and explained in detail the overall process of E-waste treatment that is being implemented in the facility. The event organizers in their closing remarks appreciated all participants participation in the training amid growing concerns over E-waste generation in Rwanda. Also, organizers expressed their gratitude to the participants for joining the workshop during the urgent time of COVID-19.

Way forward:

Participants  were grateful for the 2 day training with total of  138 participants on day one and 110 on day two . Participants appreciated the new knowledge as it was will be helpful for them to understand how E-waste should be properly managed in their respective institutions.
A set of recommendations that were agreed upon during the training:
E-waste is a new topic for the participants, participants requested that awareness raising should continue  to reach as many people as possible, through various platforms including print media , radio, TV, and media broadcasting. GGGI, Enviroserve and RURA will develop an awareness campaign plan for 2022.
Procurement and Logistic Officers from public and private institutions agreed that they will check all E-wastes from their respective institutions and start the procedures to offload e-waste as per regulations.
Participants were advised to actively utilize authorized competent and licensed companies during auctioning.
GGGI will discuss with Rwanda Housing Authority to collaborate on digitalizing the asset registry.