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Nigeria’s 300,000 tonne e-waste gold mine drives a new circular economy


Lagos – WEBWIRE
  • A $15 million circular electronics initiative in Lagos is launched today by the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility and UN Environment
  • With 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of gold ore, e-waste recycling has enormous potential to fuel the economy, create jobs and benefit the environment
  • The project is a pilot in the electronics sector convened by the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) partners including the World Economic Forum. PACE is a public-private initiative to forge a circular economy at speed and scale.
  • Find out more and watch our video

The Nigerian government, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Environment today launched a new $15 million initiative to turn the tide on e-waste in Nigeria. A global model for a circular electronics system, the project was announced at the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2019 and will kickstart a sustainable electronics economy in Nigeria, protecting the environment while creating safe employment for thousands of people.

The initiative will transform Nigeria’s current informal and hazardous recycling into a formally legislated system that benefits all actors by including a small fee on the sale of electronics to subsidise formal recycling.

Speaking at the launch of the programme, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment, Ibukun Odusote, said e-waste posed a grave danger to both the environment and human health in Nigeria.

“This intervention by Global Environment Facility aims to stimulate the development of a sustainable circular economy for electronic products in Nigeria.” She noted that the project would also support the E-waste Producers Responsibility Organization – a key initiative of the Government of Nigeria to promote sustainable production and consumption by encouraging producers to take responsibility for the entire life cycle of their products.

With 100 times more gold in a tonne of e-waste than in a tonne of gold ore, alongside other scarce and valuable materials such as platinum, cobalt and rare earth elements, a safe and efficient recycling industry has huge economic potential.

According to the International Labour Organization, up to 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste recycling sector in Nigeria, and over half a million tonnes of discarded appliances are processed in the country every year. Yet waste that is considered to have no economic value is often dumped or burned – releasing pollutants like heavy metals and toxic chemicals into the air, water and soil.

The initiative will develop systems for the disposal of non-usable and toxic waste, aiming to collect, treat and dispose of more than 270 tonnes of e-waste contaminated with persistent organic pollutants and 30 tonnes of waste containing mercury.

The project also aims to have an impact beyond Nigeria through the development of a practical circular electronics model for Africa and beyond, by sharing best practices, promoting regional and global dialogue, and engaging global manufacturers.

The initiative sits within the Circular Economy Approaches for the Electronics Sector in Nigeria project and will be implemented by the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency. The $15 million scheme brings together players from government, the private sector and civil society. It is part of the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) built by the World Economic Forum, and sees cooperation with recyclers and electronics manufactures Dell, HP, Microsoft and Phillips. PACE is looking for opportunities to scale and replicate the system in partnership with more companies and in other countries.

Dominic Waughray, Managing Director and Head of the Centre for Global Public Goods at the Forum said, “This project demonstrates how the circular economy can spur economic growth, create jobs and benefit the environment. As a platform for public-private collaboration, the World Economic Forum is delighted by the teamwork between recyclers and electronics manufacturers working side by side with government and international organizations to reach shared goals”

“The environmental and economic benefits of a circular economy are clear,” said Inger Andersen, UN Environment Executive Director. “This innovative partnership with the Government of Nigeria and the Global Environment Facility is a positive step in the country’s efforts to kickstart a circular electronics system, and one that UN Environment is proud to support.”

About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world.

About NESREA

Established under the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Environment in 2007, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) has responsibility for the protection and development of the environment, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development of Nigeria’s natural resources in general and environmental technology including coordination and liaison with relevant stakeholders within and outside Nigeria on matters of enforcement of environmental standards, regulations, rules, laws, policies and guidelines.

About the Global Environment Facility
The Global Environment Facility was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Since then, the GEF has provided over $18.1 billion in grants and mobilized an additional $94.2 billion in co-financing for more than 4,500 projects in 170 countries. Today, the GEF is an international partnership of 183 countries, international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector that addresses global environmental issues.


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