Shaping Sustainable Paths for E-waste Management in Ghana

By Stephen Kansuk, Head of Environment and Climate and Eugenia Yayra Agbley, National Service Personnel, UNDP Ghana

September 8, 2023

Photo @UNEP


As the world gradually gravitates towards the digital age, there is an increase in the demand for electronic gadgets. This new trajectory is being driven by increasing population growth, rapid urbanization, and economic growth, as well as the ongoing digitalization agenda. Technological advancements often trigger a rise in e-waste volumes with associated challenges of improper disposal. 

E-waste activities in Ghana provide $105-268 million in revenue a year and serve as a source of livelihood to at least 200,000 people nationwide. However, the work of individuals engaged in e-waste activities has adverse socio-economic and environmental impacts. Their activities often lead to the release of Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions, respiratory diseases as well as soil contamination. E-waste activities in Ghana have largely been unsustainable and would require some level of interventions to ensure sustainability.

National policies are instrumental in shaping sustainable paths. In 2016, Ghana launched the Hazardous and Electronic Waste Control and Management Act (Act 917) and its accompanying legal instrument (LI 2250). Also, Ghana is the first African country to launch the Technical Guidelines on Environmentally Sound E-waste Management. These frameworks indicate Ghana's commitment to guide sustainable e-waste management and recycling in the country.

Although, the government has made some efforts to improve E-waste management, more deliberate and strategic interventions will help position Ghana to sustainably harness the benefits of e-waste.

Initiate Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Policies

First, the government can initiate Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies to hold importers and manufacturers responsible for the afterlife of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) sold out to customers. The EEE industry in Ghana is confronted by many illegal importations. In 2019, Ghana imported 0.215Mt of e-waste although the overall e-waste generated was 47,173Mt. EPR policies when initiated could help minimize illegal imports by requiring licenses for the disposal of e-waste. 

Establish Recycling Facilities for E-waste

Second, recycling facilities for e-waste should be established and equipped adequately to guarantee thorough adherence to proper recycling practices. There are few sites designated for e-waste recycling, which influence the influx of scrap work in slums. E-waste workers mostly attribute their use of crude recycling methods to financial constraints faced in the acquisition of appropriate tools. Well-equipped recycling facilities when established can influence the regulation of informal sector workers and aid the oversight responsibility of the appropriate agency, for effective monitoring of dismantling and recycling methods.

Factor E-Waste Management into Urban Planning

Third, issues surrounding e-waste should be localized and assimilated into urban planning efforts for the appropriate designation of disposal sites. E-waste is primarily stored in homes while awaiting the arrival of collectors for disposal. Urban planning efforts should be intentional about creating collecting spaces within communities for storing e-waste to avoid potential hazards in homes and communities. 

Foster Collaborations

Furthermore, partnerships speed up sustainable actions. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through its  Waste Recovery Platform has provided a one stop shop, connecting all actors in the waste management value chain to promote waste recovery in a larger circular economy context. This platform can be leveraged to initiate consultative stakeholder engagements for driving informed decision-making and support innovative ideas of individuals within the e-waste management space through funding and training. 

Since 2019, UNDP Ghana has been supporting waste collectors with funding and training opportunities to help curb waste menace in Ghana. It is evident that, collaboration with the government and key institutions in the waste management sector can support the establishment of collection centers within identified hotspot areas for onward transmission to recycling facilities. The building of collection centers can be informed by monitoring e-waste generation in Ghana.

Addressing the e-waste challenge is a crucial step on the path to a more sustainable future. This necessitates a collective and collaborative approach to protect the environment and ensure the well-being of present and future generations. Ghana, equipped with the necessary tools and skills, can benefit from the end of life of all technological advancements and contribute to the desired sustainable future.