A new approach to e-waste
Mahmoud Bakr, Tuesday 25 May 2021
A new project is teaching university students about the safe disposal of electronic waste

A programme to train 1,000 young men and women on the safe disposal of electronic waste has been launched as part of a project focused on familiarising university students with the management of e-waste, said Mamdouh Rashwan, secretary-general of the Arab Federation for Youth and the Environment and president of the Youth Association for Development and the Environment, reports Mahmoud Bakr.

The programme will be applied initially in 10 Egyptian universities and focus on young people since they are often in direct contact with technological advances and hence use most technological devices, Rashwan said.

Electronic devices can lead to damage to the environment, particularly after they are discarded, which is why it is important to raise the awareness of young people.

The programme is called “Be Modern and a Friend to the Environment”, Rashwan said, pointing out that e-waste has become an environmental problem in the light of technological advances and the fact that young people frequently upgrade their devices and dispose of their old ones in ways that may not be environmentally friendly, sometimes leaving them in piles in their homes.

When old electronic devices are dumped in landfills or burned, they can produce toxic emissions. If they are sold to vendors, these will often take the spare parts they need and dispose of the rest by burning them or throwing them in dumpsters.

Emadeddin Adli, national director of the Small Grants Programme in Egypt, said that partnerships were the key to the success of the project that includes the concerned authorities and the Youth Association for Development and the Environment. The parties are cooperating with those in charge of managing medical waste, and the programme, funded by the Global Environment Facility, will be implemented by the Ministry of Environment and a number of Egyptian universities and institutes.

Tarek Al-Arabi, manager of the project managing medical and electronic waste at the Ministry of Environment, said e-waste could accumulate as a result of the fast pace of modern life. He said the programme was part of the “Prepare for Green” initiative implemented by the Ministry of Environment and funded by the Global Environment Facility, the Small Grants Programme, and the United Nations Development Programme.

Head of the Arab Federation for Youth and the Environment Magdi Allam said that the waste problem had become one of the most pressing environmental issues in the world today and that its amount had begun to increase as a result of population increases and increases in consumption.

He said there were now increasing amounts of hazardous waste due to industrial expansion. E-waste was a major challenge when it comes to management and safe disposal, he said, proposing that locations be identified where e-waste could be collected nationwide, particularly because it is recycled in a different way from other types of solid waste.

Abdel-Masih Samaan, a professor at the Environment Institute at Ain Shams University in Cairo, said that the e-waste project had multiple benefits, including protecting people’s health. It could have rewarding economic returns, providing job opportunities and incentives for the people that will collect the e-waste and take it to factories for recycling, he added.

Environmental expert Adel Al-Shafei said more events and training for young people were needed to make them more familiar with international agreements on exchanging e-waste. The Youth Association for Development and the Environment could establish collection points at Egyptian universities to collect e-waste and take it to one of the approved and designated facilities for safe disposal, he said.

Elham Refaat, director-general of the Waste and Hazardous Waste Management Authority, called for enforcing the law on the disposal of e-waste. “Through our specialised training programmes, we hold activities and events to spread awareness and increase the knowledge of young people in the field. Companies in charge of the safe disposal of e-waste will cooperate with volunteers to collect and recycle it through the present initiative. Egypt’s 2030 Strategy will come into effect to connect the project with sustainable development and meet economic realities without harming the environment,” she said.

Ahmed Farag, responsible for student services at the Ministry of Higher Education, said it was imperative to teach university students and others how to dispose of e-waste in a safe manner. Awareness should be particularly raised about dealing with hazardous waste that could threaten the environment and people’s lives, he added.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 May, 2021 edition ofAl-Ahram Weekly