Conservationist in the making

Melisa Njeri, a six-year-old pupil was appointed e-waste ambassador by Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Centre

Roy Lumbe @lumbe_roy

What started seven months ago as an idea to seek solutions for the disposal of electronic waste has earned six-year-old Melisa Njeri, the title of Kenya’s electronic waste ambassador.

Notwithstanding her age, Melisa Njeri has traversed the country in a drive to sensitise other school children and locals on the importance of electronic waste management.

A Grade One pupil at Lions Primary School in Nakuru, she has drawn global attention on the need to properly dispose of electronic waste in the wake of the environmental degradation  they are causing.

Doubling up as the reigning Little Miss Nakuru, she says e-waste is becoming a reality in the county and there is need to recycle it.

“Most of the e-waste in various institutions is not sorted and ends up in dumpsites, yet there are companies that collect it for recycling purposes,” Njeri explains.

She adds that electronic waste,which includes non-functional mobile phones, cables, TVs, headphones, compact disks,  radios, cameras among others are not properly disposed of, saying they eventually end up contaminating the environemnt.

“Electronic waste if are not properly disposed of ends up in our farms and eventually in our food,” she adds.

According to Njeri’s mother, Irene Kimani, her daughter’s passion in modelling and conservation earned her the ambassadorial post with e-waste management company, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Centre.

Njeri collects electronic waste from her colleagues. Photo/ROY LUMBE

“She has already toured the WEE Centre and has been taken through all the processes involved from collection of electronic waste throughout to recycling.

She is passionate and has initiated the project even in school and at home where she separates the waste for purposes of recycling,” Kimani says.

She says that most developing countries lack the resources to rapidly bridge the digital divide with brand new equipment and yet they also lack the capacity to safely dispose of the large number of pre-owned computers.

Kimani adds that her daughter has been receiving a lot of support from her school and this has given her a platform to present the idea to other pupils who  are following in her footsteps.

Her parents have enrolled her to participate in a kids competition in Greece in September over the e-waste project and are calling on the local and county governments to offer support to grow the project. “We want to go beyond Nakuru and that will require support from all stakeholders. If Njeri can be assisted to create more awareness on e-waste and sensitise locals, it will be a great boost,”says Kimani.

The family, according to Kimani is unable to sustain the project since it is expensive saying that they intend to get assistance from stakeholders to assist their daughter and fund her trip to Greece next month.

Lions Primary School Headteacher, Fanuel Imbusi says creating awareness on the need to properly dispose of e-waste is a brilliant initiative that will encourage recycling projects and instill environmental knowledge on the pupils.

He says the school took up the initiative to support the six-year-old by sensitising parents, pupils and locals on the complex project, adding that it got a positive response.

He says at first the pupils did not understand what e-waste was, but that changed with time after it was clearly explained  to them.  The school has a huge waste box for collecting e-waste.

“Njeri even carries electric and electronic waste to school through which she sensitises other pupils on proper disposal. The campaign is bearing fruits and the school is now supporting her efforts to bring about change,” says Imbusi, who noted that more electronic waste is currently being collected for recycling unlike before.

According to him, a lot of people tend to cling on the electronic waste like phones as souvenirs.

Every second, electronic devices continue to transform the world and make life easier. However, while the world becomes more and more connected through devices such as laptops, tablets, radios and mobile phones, a mountain of electronic waste is heaping.

A United Nations report found that 41 million tonnes of e-waste worth over Sh4.7 trillion ($47 billion) was discarded globally in 2014 and only six million tonnes of that was recycled properly. The report notes that e-waste volumes rose 63 per cent over the past five years in Asia alone.

It indicated that Kenya generates over 44,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, with experts saying that irresponsible disposal of electronics has greatly contributed to environmental degradation and the escalation of health conditions such as cancer.

The high rate of e-waste accumulation in Kenya is caused by the influx of cheap short life products mainly from Asian countries. E-waste is composed of a complex mix of plastics and chemicals, including heavy metals such as lead and mercury often found in electronics that makes its way into the soil and contaminates the air.

Nakuru County Director of environment Timothy Muriithi Kiogora said e-waste has not been considered for a while adding that according to the environmental management and coordination act there are no regulations on how to handle the electronic waste.

He said Kenya’s e-waste problem is fueled by a number of factors including low awareness and the lack of an independent law to manage how it is handled.

‘’We do not have a stand-alone law on the management of electronic waste in Kenya because the draft bill of 2013 has been stuck in parliament for five years,” said Kiogora.

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