In a bid to address the alarming issue of electronic waste (e-waste), Ecuador environmental management company Vertmonde, has spearheaded the ‘Ecuador Free of E-Waste’ initiative. The initiative aims to tackle the improper disposal of electronic waste, a problem exacerbated by the fact that a staggering 96% of such waste is discarded in the country.
According to recent data from the United Nations Global Electronic Waste Monitor report (2022), Ecuador generates a substantial 87,575 tons of electronic waste annually, equating to 5.1 kilos per inhabitant. Shockingly, only a mere 4% of this electronic waste is collected for proper environmental management. The majority of discarded electronic devices end up in common garbage dumps, landfills, or worse, polluting precious rivers, streams, and oceans.
Electronic waste encompasses a wide array of technological products discarded by households and companies, including computers, cell phones, cables, batteries, televisions, appliances, and video games. These discarded items often contain toxic metals and other hazardous substances detrimental to both the environment and human health.
Jhoanna Rosales, director of Triple Impact at Vertmonde, emphasizes the hidden dangers of electronic waste contamination. She asserts, “The contamination of electronic waste is not visible; we think it does not exist, but it is very dangerous.”
E-waste effort started with Galapagos
Founded 11 years ago by three women, Vertmonde has become a pioneer in environmental management, particularly in the treatment of electronic waste. In 2023, the organization launched the ‘Ecuador Free of E-Waste’ initiative, urging both companies and citizens to actively participate in the recycling of technological waste.
Galapagos served as the starting point for the initiative, with Vertmonde collaborating with the Municipal GAD of San Cristóbal. The partnership, supported by the private sector, successfully collected and separated approximately five tons of electronic waste that had accumulated over five years. Overcoming logistical challenges, the waste was transported to Quito for proper environmental management, with assistance from Latam airlines and Grupo Entregas.
Rosales stresses that the ‘Ecuador Free of E-Waste’ initiative is open to implementation in other provinces, calling for support from both the public and private sectors, as well as citizens.
Other companies join in
Several national companies, such as Difare and Netlife, have joined forces with Vertmonde in the collection of electronic waste. Netlife, in particular, has been recycling its outdated equipment for six years and recently expanded its efforts by including collection points at service centers in Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, and Riobamba.
The goal for 2024 is ambitious – Netlife plans to install containers with a capacity of 45 kilos in all its nationwide locations. Nathaly Grijalva, the firm’s Social Responsibility coordinator, reveals that between 2022 and 2023, Netlife has successfully collected over 51,830 kilos of electronic waste from collaborators and clients.
Citizens are also encouraged to actively participate in the ‘Ecuador Free of E-Waste’ initiative by handing over their unused electronic equipment to Vertmonde. To do so, they can follow a simple process: collect electronic waste, fill out a form available on Vertmonde’s website, and the organization will arrange for the collection of the waste.
Importantly, Vertmonde ensures that electronic waste is responsibly processed, with at least 95% of materials recovered and used as raw materials in the production processes of other companies. The organization strongly advises against burning electronic waste, as it produces toxic and polluting gases, and discourages disposal through informal channels to prevent soil and water contamination.
The ‘Ecuador Free of E-Waste’ initiative is not only a step towards environmental sustainability but also a collective effort to safeguard the health and well-being of Ecuadorian citizens and the planet.