Africa e-Waste greens the IT wastelands

Ulze van Wyk, Managing Director, Africa e-Waste

As a veteran in the e-waste industry, Van Wyk says the disposal of e-waste, both for corporations and individuals, is neither easy nor cost-effective.

Africa e-Waste has developed a process that addresses these issues. More importantly for Van Wyk, however, is the role Africa e-Waste is playing in the preservation of South Africa’s environment.

“The by-products of e-waste, when incorrectly processed, are extremely hazardous. As technology uptake booms, we need to consider the impact of discarded equipment to the environment,” she says.

Consumer awareness and education is a large part of Africa e-Waste’s strategy. Despite the media attention e-waste has received, consumers don’t understand the far-reaching impact of irresponsible disposal.

A boon to the company’s drive has certainly been the signing into law of the National Environmental Management Waste Bill. “We’ve seen better uptake by large corporations and government departments since the law was passed,” says Van Wyk, “but the key driver should be the rewards of taking responsibility for conscious usage and disposal.

“I am passionate about the environment and protecting it for our children. Africa e-Waste was born from passion. The only way to ensure its sustainability is to provide clients with exceptional service, thereby making their e-waste management hassle-free, and where possible, profitable.”

Africa e-Waste’s warehouse in Midrand is a secure store where collected equipment is housed, sanitised, and if feasible, refurbished. This keeps the technology in circulation for longer, and off the city’s dumps. Should the equipment be too damaged to recondition, it is destroyed according to eWASA (e-Waste Association of South Africa) certified practices.

“Our clients are protected on every level. So-called ‘green-scorpions’ check municipal dumpsites. If they find technology that has been dumped, serial numbers are tracked back to the original owners. A company’s reputation can be seriously jeopardised if such practices are traced back to it.

“Secondly, our process of sanitising hard drives can be done onsite – thereby ensuring sensitive information does not run the risk of being sold off or leaked. Every step of the process is auditable. Customers receive certification of destruction or resale. The audit report documents each aspect of the process, from technology status, disc sanitisation, and refurbishment.”

In the event of resale of equipment, customers could see unexpected financial rewards. “Some customers reinvest this money in environmental projects like planting indigenous trees. Once awareness has been created, it tends to snowball. We’ve seen some remarkable and positive changes in attitude, which is so encouraging and exciting.”

Another draw-card is Africa e-Waste is a buffer between companies and the Consumer Protection Act, which will be signed into law in June. As decreed in the new act, any second-hand purchase will be automatically guaranteed for six months. Companies which sold used equipment into the market without a “middle-man” have been deterred by the recourse customers will soon have in terms of warrantee claims. This threatens to cause huge administrative burdens. By using a responsible refurbisher, the client will never know the source of the technology. The refurbisher is totally liable.

“The attitude among consumers is really positive – they do care, both individuals and businesses are making the right decisions. Africa e-Waste facilitates the process from attitude to action; it augments consumer education, and eliminates associated liability and hassle.”