Partnerships only solution to growing e-waste problem

Samoa’s growing e-waste problem is being addressed on a sector wide scale, with government, private sector and development partners coming to the table. 

Facilitated by Samoa Stationery and Books (S.S.A.B.) and funded by the International Labour Organisation (I.L.O.), the first seminar on e-waste studied legislation and government initiatives, occupational health and safety concerns and best practice for e-waste management was held on Thursday.

Tofilau Fiti Leung Wai, Chief Executive Officer of S.SA.B. said partnerships are the only way Samoa will successfully get rid of its hazardous e-waste, and agreements with S.W.I.R.E Shipping for free freight and take-back schemes with HP who are funding the freight and disposal of printing cartridges and toners are the beginning, she said. 

“As a Samoan and a business owner, it was an eye opener when I realised no one was fully in charge of e-waste in Samoa,” Tofilau said.

“S.S.A.B. cannot do it alone and that is a reason we are holding this workshop today, to discuss how we can work collaboratively to save our environment by removing e-waste responsibly for Samoa.”

Because there is "next to no money" in selling e-waste, donor partners need to help finance the industry, especially now in its infancy. 

The I.L.O is the first partner to come on board and offer funds for knowledge sharing and capacity building. 

National Coordinator, Tomasi Peni, said perhaps the United Nations Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program could help finance the industry’s visions.

The I.L.O has given US$5,000 towards the training and discussions, and has e-waste training available for use, Mr Peni said. 

“We need trainings, we need machinery, we need regulations and laws to be enforced; we need the support of all ministries, private sector, and the public; we need donors to fund the many projects sitting on my desk, and most importantly, we need action,” said Marina Keil, President of the Samoa Recyclers and Waste Management Association.

“The income generated from one container of e-waste will nowhere near cover the operational costs involved in preparing a container for export, and that is why we are always asking for assistance.”

For its part, S.S.A.B is paying out of pocket to collect and store e-waste, and will make no money from the efforts.

Ms. Keil said S.S.A.B’s commitment to addressing the end-of-life of their electronic products is commendable. 

“I don’t know any company here in Samoa that thinks beyond the selling point, and right up to the end-life.

“We need more environmental champion companies like S.S.A.B.”

But everyone should be involved in the work against pollution, especially from hazardous waste like electronics, Ms. Keil said.

Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Environment, Ulu Bismark Crawley, said the Government supports the industry’s push to manage e-waste better.

“The role of government is to regulate and look at establishing good policy,” Ulu said.

Working with the private sector, and with S.W.R.M.A to manage e-waste is a priority, as is implementing the national waste management strategy launched last year.

M.N.R.E is taking responsibility for sorting waste in the town area, having installed sets of rubbish bins along the new waterfront developments that are for recyclables and rubbish. 

Ulu said his contractors are collecting, sorting and weighing the rubbish and plans are in the pipeline to get the recyclables off the island.

The Ministry’s Principal Chemical and Hazardous Waste Officer Fiasosoitamalii Siaosi gave a presentation on government’s current waste management initiatives, and a representative from the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Labour delivered a presentation on occupational safety and health in the sector.

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