Thirteen Latin American countries are to establish or strengthen policies on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in electronic waste, as part of an international project hosted by the UN Industrial Development Organization (Unido) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
The five-year initiative will provide technical support and funding to the countries to tackle the issue of e-waste. For POPs, the focus will be on identifying, handling and treating plastics containing brominated flame retardants, according to Alfredo Cueva, Unido’s industrial development officer.
The project began in 2018 with capacity building measures for national experts, including hosting an “e-waste academy for managers” in Costa Rica. And countries are now launching the project nationally with experts hired in each country to help with implementation, Dr Cueva said.
The 13 countries involved – Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela – are expected to establish national e-waste management strategies that are tailored to each country’s needs, but include common elements such as:
- regulations for take-back and disposal of e-waste;
- a collection system;
- the strengthening of existing dismantling facilities; and
- recycling and reuse standards.
The project also aims to harmonise key aspects of e-waste policies across Latin America, and strengthen regional cooperation and knowledge exchange between countries.
Regional e-waste outlook
Electronic waste is a prominent issue in several Latin American countries. The region has seen rapid growth in internet use and subsequent sales of computing equipment, Dr Cueva said.
As this equipment becomes obsolete, “there is an evident need to resolve the growing problem of management of ‘end-of-life’ computers and other electronic and electric equipment.”
The project’s initial study found that as of November 2014, all 13 countries had at least two facilities dedicated to e-waste dismantling facilities. Costa Rica had the most at 15 facilities, while Nicaragua had just two.
The project will see countries choose some of these facilities to upgrade, in order to meet UN standards on addressing the separation of e-waste containing POPs.
Unido’s initial study also found that reliance on extended-producer responsibility schemes that expect the producers of the equipment to pay for its disposal is also a “common approach” for the Latin American region.
Private sector companies including Ericsson, Microsoft, Dell, and Ernst & Young Belgium contributed financially to the Unido project, along with governments and the GEF. The project will seek to involve the private sector as it’s implemented, Dr Cueva said.