NGOs tackle e-waste awareness in Surinamese neighborhoods

Many of the attractive technological solutions to climate change, such as solar energy and electric car batteries will probably add a lot to the growing stream of E-waste if not disposed of properly. However, the education on that subject is still lacking in Suriname. Proper actions from the government are slowly starting. Luckily there are some local NGOs who are working towards informing the community and entrepreneurs about the issues and its opportunities.

With the United Nations’ climate summit (COP27) at an an end there has been an increase in discussions regarding climate change and renewable energy across Suriname. And even though climate funding is very high on the agenda in Suriname, it is also working towards clean energy as part of its climate action activities.

This can be seen in the research and activities of the Staatsolie Maatschappij Suriname (State Oil Company). But also in the various solar energy stations the Energy Company of Suriname is setting up in the country.

And though turning towards clean energy has its advantages it is not without its risks.

Many of the attractive technological solutions to climate change, such as solar energy and electric car batteries is adding to the growing stream of e-waste, when not disposed of properly.

However, the education on that subject is still lacking in Suriname.

Proper actions from the government are slowly starting. The question now is whether we are really ready for the turn towards clean energy.

Support Recycling Suriname (SuReSur) has been active since 2015. Initially this local NGO started with the goal of increasing awareness on the subject of waste separation and recycling. At that time, very few people were recycling, and there was no national approach towards recycling for households. The organisation started with placement of various recycle bins for plastic and aluminum cans in the coastal area. The community was mobilised to use these bins to dispose of their recyclables.

e-waste
An elderly woman placing her old laptops in the collection bin at Stibula during an recycle day at the Community center. During the recycle days people are motivated to bring their old e-waste to the collection bins instead of throwing them out with household garbage. They also get information on e-waste.

With the support of a small staff and volunteers, SureSur also visited the neighborhoods to inform the communities about the importance of recycling as well as showing them how to simplify waste separation at home. As with any behavioural change, the beginning was a little slow.

But after seven years of perseverance, this picture is now completely different.

For example, the number of collection bins has tripled and at least 45% more recyclables are being collected compared to what was collected 7 years ago. Now SuReSur is not only collecting plastic and aluminum, but also glass bottles. Since February, this organisation has also been supporting the local community based organisation Self-Awareness & Information Technology (SITA Foundation) with the collection and awareness on e-waste in Suriname.

Electronic waste, or e-waste, refers to all electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) and its parts that have been discarded by its owner as waste without the intent of reuse 3 (Step Initiative, 2014. This type of waste falls under hazardous waste according to The Basel Convention. The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was ratified in Suriname on 19th December 2011.

With this, Suriname has committed itself to save transport and handling of E-waste.

The Basel Convention

Between 2014-2016, a study was conducted for the Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean Region. The study attempted to identify the local stakeholders involved in EEE generation and management, the relationships between these stakeholders and the contribution that these stakeholders make to overall e-waste generation and management in Suriname. The assessment found that gaps in knowledge and practices exist across different sectors and that there are significant weaknesses in this respect as it relates to EEE consumption and EEE generation in Suriname.

One of the findings is that collection of e-waste is mostly done on an as-needed basis to support the sale of metal components. It is not done with the environmental aspect in mind.

Furthermore, the existing practices for salvaging metals of value to local dealers and others operating in the country do not necessarily amount to the wise re-use or recovery of these resources within the local system.

Currently most of the country’s e-waste is dumped with other household trash and ends up in a landfill. This is very dangerous to the environment but also not in line with the Basel convention.

Solutions among the local communities

Luckily there are some local NGOs who are working towards informing the community and entrepreneurs about e-waste and its opportunities. In February 2022 the local SITA Foundation started the campaign on e-waste awareness. They partnered up with the Stibula Foundation and the Community HUB for this project. Within the E-waste campaign there are 5 collection bins for e-waste as well as monthly recycle days for the community to dispose of their e-waste.

The SITA foundation also organises information sessions to increase the awareness of the general community. According to Lucien Berghout from the SITA foundation the campaign has been received well by the public. During the past seven months the organisation received various calls from private sector businesses, who are interested in disposing of their e-waste in a safe manner.

Anushka Blanca is the focal point for the campaign at the Community Hub. She functions as a manager of the collection location but also tries to raise the awareness among the youth to visit the center. E-waste and its recycling comes as a theme for various activities within the library. This goes for the Stibula Foundation as well. According to the centrum coordinator Wilgo Koster, it is motivating to see more people becoming aware of how they can contribute by simply separating waste so it can easily be recycled.

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A full collection bin at Telesur, the local Telecommunication company. Telesur is a company that supports by housing 2 location bins at two of their offices.

Contributions to the cause

The NGOs received support from the local telecommunication company Telesur. Telesur made two of their offices available as a location for collection bins. The company also supports online awareness about e-waste. In total about 700kg of e-waste has been collected for recycling by this team.

There are also some actions taken on a national level.

An example is the participation of Suriname in the regional Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) project “E-waste Management”. The project that is financed by the IDB will last for 2 years and focuses on increasing knowledge of E-waste. The project is under supervision of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for Training and Technology Transfer for the Caribbean Region. This project is also set to be conducted in Suriname, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.

 


 

This story was published with the support of Climate Tracker and The Cropper Foundation’s Caribbean Citizen Climate Journalism Fellowship

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Rubia Berghout

Rubia Berghout

Rubia is an environmentalist with about 18 years of experience in journalism and youth work. In her day to day work she is active as an communications officer, a skill she brings to her work as a volunteer as well. Working with youth and contributing to environmental awareness has always been her passion.

She currently volunteers at Stibula, a local community center and is one of the founding volunteers of Support Recycling Suriname. As a true Surinamese national she enjoys nature and the outdoors. Add a book to the list and heaven is witin grasp.

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