“WEEE are iLembe” Partnership Begins

By Shannon Moffett, Vuthela iLembe LED Support Programme coordinator of the Building Inclusive Growth Component and Paul Jones the Sustainable Recycling Initiative (SRI) local coordinator

The iLembe region is playing an increasingly important role within the waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) recycling industry in KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa. Not only is the region one of the fastest growing in KZN, there are several WEEE (also known as e-waste) recycling companies based in the area that have a national footprint and recover and treat e-waste.

Despite WEEE being the fastest growing waste streams in most countries, South Africa’s current recycling rate is between 2% and 2.5% for waste lighting and between 10% and 12% for other waste electrical and electronic equipment. This became more important when on 23 August 2021, a landfill ban for e-waste became effective in addition to the landfill ban for lamps which was already put in place five years earlier.

Although this ban has been enacted by the National Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), there is limited awareness and a lack of understanding about the implications of the recent e-waste landfill ban, particularly by local government, small businesses and households.

Falling under the Vuthela iLembe LED Support Programme, the Sustainable Recycling Initiative (SRI) local component’s research has highlighted that little has been done in iLembe to comply with the WEEE ban; local policies and by-laws have not been scrutinised to ensure alignment with this ban, and limited WEEE collection and disposal options are available to avoid sending WEEE to landfill, especially for households and small businesses.

On 29 March 2023, stakeholders from provincial and local government, iLembe business and resident’s associations, WEEE recyclers, NGOs, representatives of waste pickers, Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs) and the SRI team gathered in Ballito to discuss a partnership to improve WEEE recycling in the district. This partnership, titled “‘WEEE are iLembe” is envisaged to create collaboration between stakeholders in the industry and work towards a shared vision.

The aim of the partnership is to increase the amount of e-waste that is released for recycling, in order to grow the industry and ultimately create new business and employment opportunities. To achieve this, the objectives are to increase awareness and education, create new knowledge, encourage enhanced WEEE collection, harmonise local policies and by-laws, and create a platform for engagement.

Commenting on the partnership, Nisaar Mahomed from Trade and Investment KZN noted that a major part of the problem is a perception issue, where people see waste as something to be disposed of. He noted that people are now seeing how you can monetise waste. He stressed that “WEEE are iLembe” needs to consider the broader things like sustainable job creation through waste.

Keith Anderson from eWASA agreed, noting that the challenge is not only the waste, but one of job creation, stressing the need to include the disadvantaged community. Keith further noted that alignment of partners is also important, as various organisations were carrying out WEEE recycling campaigns.

Langalakhe Msomi from iLembe District Municipality stressed the importance of involving all the local municipalities in the initiative, and to focus on WEEE within government offices where he reported they had significant stockpiles. A previous study noted that “stockpiling e-waste is typical and the government sector may account for up to half of all e-waste”. The SRI project has also conducted a pilot study on how to address the challenges in freeing up government WEEE assets and are in the process of developing a toolkit to assist municipalities in this regard.

A few projects will be facilitated by “WEEE are iLembe” during the year, which will be implemented collaboratively along with relevant partners.

A research project will be undertaken to better understand household and business WEEE stockpiles and disposal practices. This survey will be shared with all residents and businesses in the district, and residents are encouraged to look out for the survey in April. The findings of this survey will assist the team to better understand trends and preferences in WEEE management, and guide development of an awareness campaign.

The focus of the awareness campaign will be sharing information to iLembe residents about the proper management of WEEE, including the different types of WEEE, how and where to correctly dispose of WEEE, and who collects and recycles WEEE in the area.

The team will also provide support to local municipalities. Currently, there is a lack of resources, capacity and technical skills to implement municipal recycling initiatives, and a lack of enforcement of municipal by-laws. Support to municipalities will be twofold; firstly, they will be assisted to align their by-laws and Integrated Waste Management Plans (IWMPs) with national legislation, including the draft WEEE policy which is currently being developed under the SRI programme’s national component; and secondly, most municipalities in the district are currently planning to implement waste drop-off and/or buy-back centres. SRI will be providing technical support to these municipalities to assist integrating e-waste as a waste stream that is accepted as part of their offering.

It is hoped that through the awareness campaigns and other projects to be implemented by the “WEEE are iLembe” partnership, compliance by residents and businesses will be encouraged and greater volumes of WEEE will be released for recycling.

Also attending the partnership meeting was the CEO of Enterprise iLembe Linda Mncube who said that the district’s development agency was in full support of the partnership and was particularly interested to see the business expansion and development opportunities through the creation of an enabling environment for the recycling of WEEE.