Barriers to recycling e-waste within a changing legal environment in South Africa

Authors

  • Thandazile Moyo Minerals to Metals Research Initiative, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7211-9508
  • Zaynab Sadan Minerals to Metals Research Initiative, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  • Aysha Lötter 1.Minerals to Metals Research Initiative, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa; 2.Mineral Law in Africa, Department of Private Law, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1525-0665
  • Jochen Petersen Minerals to Metals Research Initiative, Department of Chemical Engineering, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2976-308X

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2022/12564

Keywords:

electronic waste, legal framework, secondary resource, recycling, circular e-waste economy, endprocessing

Abstract

Electronic waste (e-waste) recycling presents an opportunity to reclaim materials from a secondary resource and to create jobs and other economic opportunities. E-waste consists of various materials such as metals, plastics, glass, and other chemical substances. Some of these materials are hazardous if processed or disposed of improperly. Therefore, e-waste is classified as hazardous in South African law up until the hazardous components are removed. With the appropriate infrastructure and technology, a large portion of materials contained in e-waste can be reclaimed, and any adverse impacts of irresponsible management prevented. The private sector has played a proactive role in shaping the South African waste economy, and the government is taking strides to draw up enabling regulatory frameworks. Through a literature review and stakeholder engagements, this paper unpacks the organisation of the South African e-waste recycling industry. We consider whether the legal environment drives a common vision for a circular e-waste economy and probe the barriers to e-waste recycling across the value chain. The findings indicate that the development of the e-waste recycling sector in South Africa is dependent on a robust collection network and the enabling of local end-processing, refining, and manufacturing capacity. The availability and quality of input material and the development of local refining and manufacturing capacity are co-dependent and should be addressed simultaneously.

Significance:

  • E-waste recycling is an emerging industry in South Africa and the enablers and constraints for the development of this industry are still being explored.
  • The legislative environment with regard to e-waste recycling is evolving and needs to be continuously reviewed to assess its ability to enable/activate the development of the sector. 
  • Local end-processing is currently limited to very small volumes of selected fractions of e-waste. The potential to activate upper levels of the e-waste value chain, such as end-processing, is important to the development of the sector.

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Published

2022-08-31

How to Cite

Moyo, T., Sadan, Z., Lötter, A., & Petersen, J. (2022). Barriers to recycling e-waste within a changing legal environment in South Africa. South African Journal of Science. https://doi.org/10.17159/sajs.2022/12564

Issue

Section

Waste as a Resource Research Article
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