BY ALEX TAREMWA
Computers, liquid crystal display (LCD) and cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors, cooling appliances, mobile phones, printers and photocopiers contain precious metals, flame retarded plastics and many other substances which require special handling and recycling methods because they contain problematic, scarce and valuable or otherwise interesting materials.
According to Joseph Bufwambu, UCU’s Procurement Manager, the university procurement committee resolved to sell off used equipment that have been used for over 5 years not only to recover some residual value but also to minimise the cost of disposing of these assets.
On December 17, 2015, a list was circulated on UCU Webmail detailing several items that were yet to be disposed off in an annual auction that was due on December 22, 2015 at the university stores.
This auction is meant to serve a dual purpose which is disposition of usable assets yet salvaging a few millions of shillings on which a top up is made to purchase new items.
“We compiled a list and the estimated value and presented it to the university procurement committee on December 11, “ Bufwambu said.
The Standard could not establish how much the auction has contributed to the university pool.
In early 1990s, Switzerland was the world’s first country to introduce a national e-waste management system.
This was meant to improve on the living conditions for local residents based on better managed e-waste streams, resource protection, reduced health risks and an improved economic situation.
According to the Uganda Cleaner Production Centre, an e-waste assessment group, there are no specific mechanisms in place to deal effectively with e-waste, although some recent development in Ugandan legislation can be read as having a bearing on e-waste.
The assessment indicates that in 2007, around 3 million Personal and Desktop computers were imported in Uganda, of which 75% were used in governmental, educational and non governmental organisations. It was estimated that around 15% of imports enter the country as second-hand computers.
In 2012 up to 1.5 million PC units might have reached their end-of-life. However, only a small portion seems to appear in the waste stream.
This finding suggests that most of the e-waste in Uganda is still in storage but when using the UCU approach, this situation could change soon.
Although unproblematic fractions from computer waste, such as plastic and metal could be recovered in existing recycling facilities in Uganda, other hazardous fractions, such as leaded CRT glass and PCB containing capacitors need new solutions.
Hassan Kaweesa, an I.T Assistant at TTM, a technology firm in Kampala argues other electronics beside computers equally pose health threats to users and warns against second hand purchase of such equipment.
“Even washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, air-conditioners, vacuum cleaners, coffee machines, toasters, flat irons pose equal threats. I’m therefore not sure UCU is being completely fair by selling of these machines to second hand users rather than dispose them off,” he explained.
Bufwambu however corporately retaliated that because these items are branded with UCU’s permanent marks, the university would rather sell them off to consumers who might find them useful in a distributive strategy primarily staff who are likely to handle them with social responsibility.