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NGO Embarks On Environmental Protection Through Waste Recycling 

By Leocadia Bongben — A French NGO, Solidarite Technologique, has embarked on environmental protection through waste recycling known in French as D3E.

D3E stands for (Deched’Equipment Electric et Electronic) waste from electrical and electronic equipment such as televisions, fridges, computers, telephones, electronic household appliances, among others. The French Ambassador to Cameroon, Bruno Gain, recently inaugurated the waste recycling centre, the first in Central Africa in Ewonkan village, in Yaounde III, which was only famous for guinea-fowl hunting.

Electrical and electronic equipment are specific because they contain polluting elements; these are mercury and lead, found especially in ancient televisions, Gilles Merlier, Project Director told The Post. Thrown into the environment, it does not decay. In the short term, the consequences are not visible but, in about 20 years, the elements could be found in the soil. In the long run the soil is contaminated with heavy metals and with rain, they find their way into water and fish.

Another problem is if they are burnt, they send out toxic vapour. Besides the environmental hazards, lead, a soft heavy bluish-grey metal is dangerous because it can penetrate into the system through food like fish. The lead or mercury – a silvery liquid metal – in the fish is transferred into the body not predisposed to assimilate the metals and thus cause diseases.

Lead, especially, causes diseases in children, passing through blood and the brain causing cerebral problems, Merlier stated. Having a centre training students on computer maintenance and information technology, the Director of Solidarite Technologique, Valery Pichou, said there was need to find a solution to dispose of computers that were no longer useful.

That is how the idea of an electronic waste recycling germinated into a project. Besides, Cameroon is importing which computers become waste afterwards. About 8,000 tons of computers get into Cameroon every year which underscores the importance of the recycling centre. To Pichou, the recycling plant is there to give a second life to the waste, re-valorise the computers for the training centre and for the underprivileged who cannot afford them.

The centre works with enterprises that want to valorise their waste. “They are ready to dispose of the equipment that are no longer useful to them but could still be useful to equip schools, enable students get employment and equip Solidarite Technologique training centre,” said Pichou. 

“So, we take the equipment, give them a second life and put it in the market,” she said. When the equipment arrives at the centre, the base is to have a good traceability; this guarantees that all the waste is treated well. The equipment is weighed, there is an inventory to justify the waste received, avoid issues of corruption, waste being where it is not supposed to be and avoid waste that is unaccounted for in the workshop, Joseph Duclos Balog, a student on internship stated.

The equipment that can be given a second life is taken to a different section, cleaned and recycled. The equipment that cannot be re-cycled is dismantled, the toxic component isolated, as well as plastic and metals. Each element is oriented towards specialised industries such as the plastics industry and batteries for micro-waves in Douala, the head of the recycling workshop, Mbohou Ouzerou, said. Part of the waste is sent to Europe in case there is no industry in Cameroon to treat such waste.

No heavy industrial processes like burning, grinding or use of machine are involved; only the manual tools, screw drivers to dismantle the electrical and electronic equipment.
And only a small portion is thrown, Mellier explained. While individuals and companies can take their electronic waste to the centre, the centre still needs finances to buy vehicles to move around and collect the equipment.

The waste recycling centre project has been realised, thanks to the partnership with other NGOs in France and Cameroon such as GIZ, La Guilde, among others. Besides recycling and dismantling the electronic waste to be sent to factories, an artist, Dieudonne Fokou, has also found a way of putting electronic waste into use through art work.

First published in The Post print edition no 01412

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