Regulate Electronic Waste to Protect Waterways and Public Health

Target: Kepha Ombacho, Kenya’s Director of Public Health

Goal: Create and implement policy to regulate e-waste, protecting environmental and public health.

Kenya generates 44,000 tons of electronic waste (any device that uses a plug or battery) each year, posing great public and environmental health hazards. Electronic waste is a huge problem across the world, with 45 million tons produced in 2016, but in Kenya, this waste is not regulated. This is a growing problem for waterways such as the Nairobi River, where e-waste is dumped and toxins are distributed to agricultural areas. While there are three facilities licensed to handle e-waste, they are all currently running under capacity because of a lack of awareness about the dangers of e-waste and how to dispose of it properly.

A rise in income and a decline in electronics prices have contributed to this problem. Kenya also receives large amounts of e-waste from Europe, which is a common practice for developing countries. Across Southeast Asia, many landfill workers make money from recycling electronic parts or separating precious metals from the plastics. Direct contact with dangerous materials like lead, cadmium, and chromium are associated with developmental and behavioral problems, especially with children. In addition, these toxins accumulate in soil, waterways, and food.

Regulating e-waste has the potential to increase awareness about proper disposal practices not just with electronic waste, but with plastic waste. It also has the potential to turn the conversation to harmful consumer behaviors. Consumers often discard older electronic models when they still work or keep broken ones in their homes without disposing of them properly. Kenya’s government must implement a policy to regulate e-waste before it causes any more damage to the environment and its people. Sign the petition below to urge the Kenya’s director of public health to push for this legislation.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Director Ombacho,

Electronic waste is a huge problem across the world, but it is even more so in Kenya, where 44,000 unregulated tons are produced each year. Because there is no policy regulating e-waste, it is common practice to dump it into waterways, streets, and regular garbage bins. Electronic waste is highly detrimental to human health; it causes developmental and behavioral problems, especially in children. Toxins from e-waste also accumulate in soil, waterways, and food. The Nairobi River is now an awful e-waste dumpsite, and the rest of Kenya’s waterways are affected.

Kenya can make a positive impact on global e-waste by implementing a policy to regulate it. This waste has potential to improve recycling for all types of garbage, such as plastic. It can also help steer the conservation to changing consumer habits, not only regarding proper waste disposal and recycling, but also being mindful of purchasing new electronics when old ones can be repaired or traded in. Although widespread access to electronics may signal social and technological progress, we must ensure that it does not cause environmental degradation and public health deterioration. I hope that you implement a policy to regulate e-waste and help protect environmental and public health.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Sascha Pohflepp