Women take the lead at Circular Energy Conference
Women are all-in when it comes to managing and reducing national e-waste as demonstrated at the recent 2023 Circular Energy Conference.
While invitations to the event went out to all concerned parties, attendees and speakers alike were almost exclusively female.
“Women have always been at the forefront of social responsibility and reform, so it’s exciting to see that energy focused on minimising e-waste,” says Circular Energy spokesperson Patricia Schröder.
Circular Energy is a DFFE-registered Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO) for waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE), Lighting and Lighting Equipment, Batteries and Packaging in South Africa. The organisation itself is predominantly female-led.
Women’s technical power
The conference inadvertently became a showcase for the high levels of academic training, technical competence, industry experience and subject matter expertise prevalent among women in the field of e-waste management.
Rather than promoting vague environmentalist agendas, conference speakers focused on the need to engineer pragmatic, structured, strategic and formalised programmes and solutions for the very real problems e-waste presents.
Of course, the golden thread throughout was the implementation of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programmes and associated concerns, like Life Cycle Assessments. Sharon Mogomotsi, Director at the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) provided the audience with an update on the progress of EPR Regulations.
The advancement of the industry itself was also covered, including a BBEEE transformation charter for the EPR sectors and the need for job creation and skills development within the field.
Both female and male speakers shared a number of initiatives already being put in place, such as the drive to refurbish solar panels for reuse in disadvantaged communities. Or the ability to drop off used small batteries and lightbulbs at dedicated e-waste disposal bins in Woolworths stores.
Likewise, consumers can apply to have their larger e-waste collected through Circular Energy’s website.
Plans are also afoot to deal with free riders, that is, entities that benefit from the electronics supply chain without contributing to the cost of reducing e-waste.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as EPR legislation and regulations put the onus on producers to design products, manufacturing processes and packaging against plans for managing e-waste throughout their life cycles, from conception right through to disposal and recycling.
“South Africa is already making great strides in EPR and, in some ways, will be more advanced than other nations, for example, through deeper inclusion of its informal sector,” says Schröder.
Household e-waste champions
Research shows that women make more than half of all buying decisions directly and influence the majority of the remaining buying decisions made within their household. Nielsen reports that by 2028, women will own 75% of discretionary spend, “making them the world’s greatest influencers”.
This puts women in the ideal position to enforce good e-waste disposal habits at home, as well as at work, to make EPR the effective solution it was designed to be.
“As their household’s Chief Economist, women again have the opportunity to make a difference to the world as champions of the circular economy,” says Schröder.
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