A 2016 statistics from the Telecommunication Regulatory Agency (ART) in Cameroon, indicates that 16.8 million out of the over 22 million Cameroonians, own a mobile phone.
With the short life span of these electronics, the rate at which electronic wastes are generated is on a steady rise.
For example, Consumer Technology Association holds that an average life span of a Smartphone is 21 months, with a few other phones extending to a little over two years.
This status quo has induced tons of waste telephones and other electronics. The situation has been compounded by the none existence of a technology for the recycling of electronic gadgets in Cameroon. The adverse effects of this phenomenon is weighing on the environment and human life.
Dominic Meme Nwakimo
When waste electronics get onto the environment for example, chemical substances like mercury leaches into rivers and seas and are consequently consumed by fish. While in the system of these sea creatures, a chemical like mercury will stay in an inactive stage and when the fish is consumed by man, the adverse effects of the mercury begin to manifest. The accumulation of mercury in the human system causes cancer with pregnant women exposed to it likely to give birth to babies with malformation.
Beside this, research equally indicates that mercury that comes principally from phones reduces the intelligent quotient (IQ) of human beings. This is manifested through a fallen level of reasoning. According to Environment Protection Agency, lead taken into the body through the air, through contaminated ground water or lead-contaminated food accumulate in human bones and consequently affects the nervous system, interrupts the normal functioning of the kidney, reproductive and development systems and the immune system.
Beside man, chemicals from waste phones affects the fertility of the soil. This entails reducing soil nutrients and thereby rendering it infertile for the cultivation of crops.
In the midst of these, there appear to be no legislation in the country governing the management of electronic waste. Though the joint order: No.005 MINEPDED/MINCOMMERCE of 24 October 2012 established specific conditions for management of electrical and electronic equipment waste, statistics indicate that at least 2600 tons of waste phones are in the country.
Such a figure is strange especially in a country like Cameroon that does not produce electronic gadgets like phones. Though no policy has been put in place to manage electronic wastes, the state has been encouraging private individuals and nongovernmental organizations that carter for the environment to collect electronic waste in general and waste phones in particular.
The Gilles Azemazi, an official of a waste telephone collection company known as ‘Cameroon Living Earth Foundation’ in Douala, for example collected a little over 12.000 tons of waste phones in the year 2016 and a similar figure in 2017.Thus 25000 tons of waste phone were collected in Cameroon in 2016 and 2017.This figure according to him remains far below the actual number of waste phones in the country that cannot be collected because of financial constraints. The process of collecting waste ones in Cameroon remain challenging “…we have waste phones collectors that work principally with telephone repairers in major towns and cities in Cameroon. These collectors visit phone repairers at least three times a week to collect the waste phones. In return, we compensate the repairers financially. For instance, a kilogram of waste phones cost 1500f cfa while a single waste phone is sold to waste phone collectors for 100f cfa,” Gilles Azemazi, a worker of the mobile phone waste collection explained.
Waste mobile phones collection process in Cameroon in both homes and specific points remain a major challenge. Many do not easily accept for example to sell a waste smartphone purchased for thousands of francs cfa when it becomes a waste. Beside this, officials of the Littoral Regional Delegation of Environment, Protection of Nature and sustainable Development say there exist illegal waste phones collection companies mostly made up of Lebanese and Nigerians. These clandestine waste phones collection points therefore, hinder the process of presenting authentic and comprehensive statistics of waste phones collection each year for subsequent recycling abroad.