Embrace the principles of a circular economy

Growing up, I was inculcated into the noble values of utilizing resources to the maximum value. A single pencil/pen would be used to the last inkdrop or graphite tip.

Editor,

RE: “Apple admits slowing older iPhones because of flagging batteries” (The New Times, December 21).

Growing up, I was inculcated into the noble values of utilizing resources to the maximum value. A single pencil/pen would be used to the last inkdrop or graphite tip. Clothes were recycled and reused amongst siblings, cousins etc. Television sets/radios/fridges were repaired multiple times in case of breakdown, and if there was a need for upgrade the old TV set was sold or given to the folks back in the rural areas.

This goes for the phones, where phones are recycled and re-used within the family. However it was with dismay that I realized how easy it has now become to discard old phones, old computer screens, broken keyboards, broken phone/computer chargers etc. This is a snapshot of what has been the world's economy for a long time: The economy of use and discard.

There are some popular US documentaries where the West discards fairly good furniture/electronics on the street for collection by garbage trucks as owners 'upgrade' to the newest fad/fashion. This sort of economy has created such a huge issue and it’s obvious that the principle of use and discard is not sustainable in the long run. Africa is particularly vulnerable as inevitably we become the dumping ground for the world's e-waste.

Enter the principles of a circular economy. "In a circular economy, resources are used to their highest value and re-used continuously rather than being thrown away. The size of the economic opportunity from re-thinking how resources are used is vast. For example, there is 100 times more gold in a tonne of smartphones than a tonne of gold ore but many phones are not properly recycled, thus wasting these resources" (Minirena website). It comes as a pleasant surprise that Rwanda, South Africa and Nigeria are the forerunners of the African Alliance on Circular Economy which seeks to promote more sustainable African economies.

The practical aspect related to the iPhone story above would be development of policies that promote maintenance, design for durability and upgradability of electronics as Africa’s industrial sector matures.

Let's hope Rwanda picks this ball, run with it and as expected be the much needed trailblazer in Africa.

MG

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