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Second hand mobile phones causing waste problems in Kenya

A Kenyan environmental officer is asking UK mobile phone companies to assess the impact of old mobile phones imported into Kenya and the waste problems they cause. Kenyan National Environment Management (NEMA) compliance officer Peter Odhengo said: There is a serious waste problem with second hand computers and mobile phones sent to Kenya from the West. Currently there are no regulations to control the importing of electronic waste and so we are ending up with a mass of electronics that we do not need. Odhengo also said that once the computers and mobile phones break down, there are problems in recycling their components due to the lack of recycling facilities in Kenya. NEMA has set up a few training centres to train people in how to extract components from mobile phones and recycle them. Once the companies, such as Vodafone, Nokia, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft interject their own funds to clean up the mess that they leave it will be better for Kenya. Kenyans need items such as mobile phones and computers but the problem comes when these items break down. The companies need to take the responsibility with funding for recycling the components of these electrical items and to see the life cycle to its end. Vodafone senior manager Caroline Dewling said: "Vodafone does not have an operating license in Kenya but we do have a partnership agreement with one of the operators, Safaricom. As a business we take recycling very seriously and have been collecting handsets in our operating markets for a number of years now. "Recycling in developing countries presents different challenges from those in European markets where people change their phones frequently and where it is easier to organize the collection of mobile phones. "In countries like Kenya people tend to keep their phone for longer and get their phones repaired when they break down. "It is therefore important to collect handsets from this secondary repair market and to understand how best to do this we are working with a sustainable charity called Forum for the Future so we can set up effective recycling initiatives and pilot ways to solve the problem of mobile phone waste." Odhengo claims that there are no specific figures or statistics to show how many second hand electrical items enter Kenya each year because many of the items enter the country from different routes and they are difficult to track. To solve the problem requires enforcement by developed countries and true declaration forms of what can be taken to Kenya and the companies need to invest in the recycling infrastructure. Image: Peter Odhengo, NEMA compliance officer

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