Introduction to the e-Waste Problem

As a result of the ever increasing need for smarter, smaller, and faster technology, electrical and electronic waste is now one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world. To make matters worse, some e-waste components contain materials (such as heavy metals and plastics treated with flame retardants) that can pose both human and environmental hazards.

The range of products ending up as electronic and electrical waste, (e-Waste), is virtually unlimited. Everything in the home or at the workplace that is driven by electricity or a battery, falls into this category. But what happens to it when it gets old or just dies?

The Southern African E-Waste Alliance (SAEWA) provides constructive solutions to the problems associated with the responsible handling and (where required) disposal of electronic waste. As a matter of fact “e-Waste” can often be given a second lease of life of its function for use elsewhere, or at least through the recovery of materials and unique components. Both the recovery of function and materials in “e-Waste” can lead to the creation of job opportunities or development of new skills based on waste beneficiation strategies.

The e-Waste Alliance ensures that all processes adopted are environmentally sound, and safe in terms of employee working conditions (please also refer to the Southern African E-Waste Alliance (SAEWA) “Operational Code of Conduct” and the Southern African E-Waste Alliance (SAEWA) Constitution as provided in the Download section.

Process 1: Refurbishment and Repair

Our first priority is to refurbish and repair as much e-waste as we possibly can to preserve its original “functionality”. This extends the life of electronics and is the best use of resources while creating skilful jobs at the same time. Our refurbished electronics also reach a special market: we offer inexpensive electronics to people who might not be able to afford new ones and also enable donations to communities as part of a donor company’s corporate social responsibility programme.

Process 2: Recycling

What we can’t refurbish, we dismantle for downstream recycling or rework purposes. Often we get very old electronics, or items that can’t be repaired. These are then dismantled and separated into different component units and material streams that are sold on to respective, authorized recyclers. Alternatively and in order to increase the added value of certain attractive but otherwise low value parts we team up with service providers in the option 3 category.

Process 3: Waste to Art

Pieces of the electronics with low resale value but high rework potential are turned into useful items or works of art. Community members trained in waste to art skills earn their livelihood while helping to draw attention to e-waste and spread the message about the one-stop shop integrated e-waste management service the Southern African E-Waste Alliance (SAEWA) is able to offer to both businesses and private households e.g. by manufacturing jewellery, clocks, key rings, and other corporate gifts and accessories with suitable components.

Further outcomes of the SAEWA business partner collaboration include:

• An increase in the quantity of pre-owned equipment that is available to registered community based charitable organizations, as a result of a comprehensive test, repair and rebuild program.
• The establishment of a safe environment where non-working equipment and sub-systems can be disassembled to a component level, in order to recover materials that in their own right have intrinsic scrap value, or value to a third party in a creative environment.
• Development of Southern African E-Waste Alliance (SAEWA) own MANDATORY minimum technical and operational minimum member standards as described in the Southern African E-Waste Alliance (SAEWA) Code of Conduct.
• Satisfaction of current and future legal requirements while being financially feasible and safe with regards to data protection and convenient with regards to collection services offered.