“WEEE are iLembe” – The Partnership Begins

A multi-stakeholder partnership is set to boost the iLembe e-waste industry and drive collaborative projects and interventions in the district. This is part of the global Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) Programme which will be localised and institutionalised in iLembe write Paul Jones, the SRI Project Local Coordinator, and Shannon Moffett, Key Expert for the Building Inclusive Growth Component of the Vuthela iLembe LED Support Programme

 

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), or e-waste, is the fastest growing waste stream globally. Despite this, South Africa’s current recycling rate is only estimated to be between 2% and 2.5% for waste lighting and between 10% and 12% for other e-waste.[i] Given the hazardous nature of e-waste, a landfill ban for e-waste became effective in South Africa on 23 August 2021, 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 the Environment (DFFE), there is limited awareness and a lack of understanding about the implications of the e-waste landfill ban, particularly by local government, small businesses and households.

 

The Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) Programme is a global programme which seeks to build capacity for sustainable e-waste recycling in developing nations. Phase II of the SRI programme is currently being implemented in South Africa until mid-2025. Amongst other things, the project aims to support development of a national e-waste policy and minimum requirement-based operational and technical norms and standards for the management of e-waste to create a more level playing field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falling under the Vuthela iLembe LED Support Programme, SRI also has a local component which is currently being implemented in iLembe. The focus of the iLembe project component is to ensure harmonisation of local policies and by-laws and to strengthen the interface between stakeholders in the e-waste value chain.

 

Progress

 

During 2022, the iLembe local team undertook detailed stakeholder engagement and research into the iLembe e-waste industry. This resulted in the iLembe WEEE landscape report, which provides an assessment of the local e-waste value chain, the stakeholders and their roles and responsibilities, the main challenges facing the industry, and presented some opportunity areas for growth. The landscape report can be accessed on the SRI website HERE.

 

The key findings in the landscape report highlighted that little has been done in iLembe regarding infrastructural development and awareness creation for the public that would enable residents to comply with the ban of e-waste to landfill. Additionally, local policies and by-laws have not yet been amended to ensure alignment with this ban. There is generally limited awareness amongst households and businesses about e-waste while there are very limited collection and alternative disposal options available to avoid e-waste from ending up in an engineered landfill site – or even worse on an illegal dump site.

 

Rationale for “WEEE are iLembe”

 

To support local stakeholders in addressing the challenges identified in the e-waste industry, and pursing opportunities to grow the industry that can benefit from valuables contained in this unique waste stream, a partnership initiative titled “WEEE are iLembe” has been conceptualised. The rationale for the partnership is to create a shared vision and broad buy-in amongst all stakeholders to allow for phased development of the iLembe e-waste industry. This will also support institutionalisation of the SRI programme in iLembe, and create a unique, autonomous brand for the industry.

 

“WEEE are iLembe” will be a platform for engagement and build a base from which multi-stakeholder partnerships can be formed to drive collaborative projects and interventions. By broadening e-waste awareness and supporting policy harmonisation, the partnership aims to encourage the controlled release and safe collection of increased volumes of WEEE to create new opportunities for SMMEs and increase recycling of WEEE in iLembe.

 

Establishment process

 

Towards establishing the partnership, the SRI team first approached all key e-waste industry stakeholders to gain input and support, and thereafter sought approval from the SRI Steering Committee for the “WEEE are iLembe” initiative, which was granted in October 2022.

 

Since the start of 2023, the local team has been busy formalising the establishment of the partnership. Currently underway is the development of a corporate identity for “WEEE are iLembe”. This includes the brand design, a website to act as a central repository of all things e-waste in iLembe, and social media pages. The website and brand development process is scheduled to be complete in May 2023 in line with the official launch of “WEEE are iLembe”.

 

Additionally, a first roundtable discussion was hosted on 29 March 2023 in Ballito with all key partners including provincial and local government, iLembe business and resident’s associations, WEEE recyclers, NGOs, representatives of waste pickers, and Producer Responsibility Organisations (PROs).

 

Through an interactive session, most partners noted that their organisations are willing to collaborate and contribute because they see value for their organisation in the partnership. In rating the objectives, the following were highlighted as priorities to become the partnership core objectives:

  1. Encourage enhanced WEEE collection;
  2. Enhance education and awareness; and
  3. Build partnerships and collaboration.

 

While still currently in draft format, partners contributed to elements of the vision which is “to promote zero e-waste to landfill in iLembe by encouraging collaboration, enhancing awareness and promoting increased collection that will lead to an increase in compliant e-waste recycling, new economic opportunities and environmental sustainability”.

 

Partners also voted towards a preferred brand for the partnership, and provided input into the projects that have been proposed to initiate the partnership.

 

“WEEE are iLembe” projects

 

A handful of initial projects have been identified that will be facilitated by “WEEE are iLembe” under its brand. These projects will be implemented collaboratively along with relevant partners.

 

A primary research study is currently being initiated to better understand both the cause and magnitude of current household and business e-waste stockpiles and disposal practices. This survey will be shared with all residents and businesses in the district in May 2023, and we encourage everyone to keep an eye out for this survey and participate. The findings of this study will assist the team to better understand trends and preferences in e-waste management and guide the development of a needs targeted and location specific awareness campaign.

 

An e-waste awareness campaign will be launched that will focus on sharing information about the proper management of e-waste, including the different types of e-waste, how and where to correctly dispose of e-waste, and who collects and recycles e-waste in the area. This information will be shared via the website and social media pages, and through other marketing and promotional activities that will be determined as the year unfolds. One such activity that has been identified is a future iLembe WEEE collection drive event, which will encourage the disposal of e-waste through various mechanisms coordinated by existing waste management companies and recyclers. Residents, schools, and local businesses will be actively encouraged to take part in this district-wide initiative.

 

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 two-fold. Firstly, they will be assisted to align their by-laws and Integrated Waste Management Plans (IWMPs) with national legislation, including the draft National WEEE policy; 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 key component of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) and 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 improved and greater volumes of e-waste will be released for recycling in the region. This will lead to the creation of new business opportunities and assist to create a cleaner, more healthy environment.

 

Call to keep an eye out and get involved

 

We urge all residents and businesses within iLembe to get involved and assist us to create a more sustainable environment and resilient local economy.

[i] https://mg.co.za/environment/2021-10-18-new-electronic-waste-management-regulations-will-take-effect-in-november/