An assessment of environmental awareness and management strategies, regarding electrical and electronic equipment waste amongst environmental regulatiotors in Kigali, Rwanda.
Mugabe, Robert Rubona.
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Information and Communication Technology (ICT), constitutes one of the development sectors that have expanded significantly in Rwanda. With very limited natural resources and a sector of the industry at its early stage of development, ICT provides Rwanda with opportunities to achieve its vision to become a middle-income country by the year 2020. However, old and discarded ICT equipment constitutes a source of hazardous waste, namely waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) or e-waste which, if not appropriately managed, could have serious impacts on human and environmental health. This study aimed at assessing the level of awareness regarding e-waste and management strategies amongst environmental regulators in Kigali, Rwanda. The study was guided by the Ecological Modernization Theory (EMT), which advocates the integration of environmental concerns in all economic and development sectors, such as ICT, in order to achieve environmental sustainability. This research employed a mixed-method approach to scientific enquiry, using a combination of quantitative and desktop research methods. The desktop research method was used to study the current waste management practices in Kigali and the legal and institutional framework relevant to e-waste management. The quantitative approach, conducted through a questionnaire survey, was used to collect data regarding e-waste awareness amongst environmental regulators, current extent of e-waste, e-waste management in Kigali and challenges experienced. Using a purposive sampling method, 32 environmental regulators from different government institutions having vested interest in environmental protection and waste management from central to the district level were selected. Questionnaires were dispatched to the respondents via e-mail. The responses comprised 87.5% (28) of the target environmental regulators. Data was coded and analysed using the Software Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) template and Microsoft Excel. In addition, qualitative information was used to support the quantitative data, in the analysis and discussion. The findings of this research revealed that the level of awareness amongst environmental regulators with regard to the hazardous nature of e-waste remains low. In addition, e-waste managerial strategies remain largely unknown amongst environmental regulators. Regarding an e-waste management framework, Kigali does not have any formal ewaste management, while the legal framework remains at the draft level. In addition, the city lacks adequate infrastructure and financial capacity for environmentally sound e-waste management. E-waste is currently managed through various informal structures such as storing discarded equipment, selling and donating it, or disposing obsolete electrical and electronic equipment with other household waste. The study recommends that in order to progress towards sustainable development, an e-waste managerial framework, including clear institutional and legal frameworks must be established. In addition, professional capacity building on environmentally sound e-waste management should be offered to environmental regulators. Finally, the study proposes that programs to raise awareness of e-waste hazards amongst the different population strata should also be initiated.
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