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Ericsson E-waste Recycling in West Africa

March 17, 2015

Industrial e-waste management is critical for the health of our planet. The world is increasing in the production of electronic waste and as new devices are released, there is an increased need for computer and mobile phone recycling. Fortunately, there are parts of the world doing their part, such as Ericsson.

Ericsson’s Efforts In Africa

discarded electronics

Photo: Luke Dorny (flickr)

Ericsson (a multinational provider of communications technology and services) quickly realized that indiscriminate dumping led to the release of toxins into the ground water and soil. This includes heavy metals like mercury, which can be deadly to humans and animals in large quantities. With most of Africa having no mobile phone recycling options, let alone industrial e-waste management, the company took action.

Partnering with companies like MTN Berlin, Ericsson helped launch collection centers for this e-waste. Taking it a step further, Ericsson has been providing residents of West Africa with information on the necessity of mobile phone recycling and the importance of industrial e-waste management to protect the environment.

What Companies Can/Should Do Better

Some companies are trying to combat e-waste to protect the environment. Apple, for example, offers trade-in programs for phones. They know their customers are likely to upgrade their devices and have taken steps to minimize the waste produced with their own mobile phone recycling program. Unfortunately, the industrial e-waste management doesn’t carry over to all companies.

Companies like AT&T have been exposed for their practices when it comes to handling of their waste. Instead of focusing on industrial e-waste management, the company illegally dumped. They were forced to pay $52 million for their crime. But they aren’t alone. More companies need to take action and take a greener approach to handling their waste.

toxic ground area

Photo: Daniel X. O’Neil (flickr)

The Growing Concern

Things are far from perfect. Right now, it’s estimated that 70% of electronics are discarded in the trash. This can lead to toxins being released into the air and ground. This accounts for 2% of toxic waste in America’s landfills and 70% of the overall total of toxic waste that is disposed of. In terms of weight, that equates to 20 – 50 million metric tons. An additional 12.5% of e-waste properly through industrial e-waste management services. With options like mobile phone recycling pulling precious metals from devices.

Different Cultures are Making a Difference

West Africans are taking steps to minimize the impact their e-waste is having on the environment. This country is focusing heavily on opening plants and educating their residents. The United Kingdom has started criminal investigations into corporations that are producing and illegally dumping this waste. In India, residents are scouring the landfills and collecting the discarded products as a business venture and turning them in for cash.

America is Unfortunately Not Part of the Solution…Yet

Right now, most Americans are not part of the solution. With consumerism at an all-time high and living in a disposable culture, they continue to discard devices carelessly. Part of the problem is most of them have no idea of the dangers sending these electronic devices to the dump can cause. With increased awareness about the importance of programs like mobile phone recycling and industrial e-waste management companies becoming readily available, there is hope.

How Can We Make It Better?

Take a proactive approach to the way you handle your electronic devices. Recycle them in approved locations. Let others know about the dangers of dumping these devices in our landfills and become part of the solution.

In time, we can make a difference and reduce the amount of dangerous waste we throw away. Being socially responsible as a group can help us bring an end to dangerous e-waste and help protect our most valuable resource – our planet.

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