According to the Global E-waste Monitor 2020, 53.6 million tonnes of electronic waste (e-waste) were generated worldwide in 2019. The report also predicts global e-waste – discarded products with a battery or plug – will reach 74 million tonnes by 2030. This makes e-waste the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream, fueled mainly by higher consumption of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE), short life cycles of the EEE and few options for repair.
The demand for EEE has increased significantly in Rwanda due to economic growth and modernisation. According to the National Sanitation Policy, the utilisation, purchase, and importation of EEE is expected to grow substantially, with estimates of 20 per cent annual growth. The increased usage of the equipment will subsequently generate higher volumes of e-waste, which is generated from discarded mobile phones, computers, stereos, light bulbs as well as large household appliances such as televisions, refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioners. It was projected that the country’s e-waste will reach 12.4 tonnes per year in 2020 up from 8.8 tonnes per year in 2014.
Conscious of its monetary value on one hand and contamination effects on the other, the Government of Rwanda (GoR) has initiated e-waste management initiatives and mechanisms to support the promotion and implementation of its sound and sustainable management. In this regard, and on top of previously existing overall environmental management tools, Rwanda published a draft e-waste policy in 2015, which was subsequently incorporated into the National Sanitation Policy. The Rwanda Cabinet approved the Sanitation Policy and its related implementation strategy in December 2016. This was followed by the approval of the Regulation Governing E-waste in Rwanda in April 2018. To ensure sustainable management of e-waste, GoR, in partnership with Enviroserve Green Park Rwanda, established a modern environment-friendly e-waste dismantling and recycling facility in Bugesera Industrial Park in January 2018. Previously, GoR and private institutions had been renting warehouses to store their e-waste, which was expensive and unsustainable.
The adoption of the e-waste policies and regulations, as well as the establishment of this facility, put the country at the forefront of e-waste management in sub Saharan Africa. Rwanda is the second country in Africa to have an e-waste dismantling and recycling facility after South Africa. E-waste management has become a major challenge facing many African countries because of lack of awareness, lack of environmental legislation and limited financial resources. Currently, e-waste in Africa is predominately disposed through open dumping, burning and landfilling, but with heavy metals and other hazardous substances present in electronics, these methods have potentially serious implications for human health and the environment.
Given the advanced nature of the Rwandan e-waste policy and regulatory environment, and the challenges that other African countries are facing, Africa Clean Energy Technical Assistance Facility (ACE TAF) initiated a study to document Rwanda’s experience in implementing e-waste policy and regulations with a focus on stand-alone solar (SAS) products. The information is to be shared with other African countries for reference as they establish plans and facilities for management of their e-waste.