Protection of the Environment in the Latin American Mobile Industry

April 12, 2016

The modern lifestyle of a growing number of people living on the planet increasingly relies on electric and electronic equipment (EEE). The use of information and communications technologies (ICT) can contribute to achieving some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and enable a transition to a more efficient use of resources, which can engender key societal benefits.

The GSMA and the United Nations University launched the report “eWaste in Latin America: Statistical analysis and policy recommendations” which reveals the latest regional data on electronic waste. Latin America produced nine per cent of the world’s e-waste in 2014, amounting to 3,900 kilotonnes (kt). In the next four years the e-waste generated in the region will grow five to seven per cent annually, reaching almost 4,800kt by 2018.

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The average e-waste generated in Latin America in 2014 was 6.6kg per person. Most electronic waste in the region is generated in Brazil and Mexico, which, because of their large populations, respectively produced 1,400kt and 1,000kt of e-waste in 2014. They were followed by Argentina (292kt), Colombia (252kt), Venezuela (233kt), Chile (176kt) and Peru (147kt).

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However, e-waste generated from mobile devices accounts for less than 0.5 per cent of the total weight of the world’s e-waste, and this proportion is the same in Latin America.

Public policy recommendations

The United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability has provided a series of public policy recommendations to take into account for developing e-waste management regulatory frameworks in the region:

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Only a few countries in Latin America currently have specific laws on e-waste management in place and, in general, the principle of Extended Producer Responsibility is not being implemented. In most cases, e-waste management is regulated under general hazardous waste legislation, and specific public policy bills or technical guidelines are being discussed, going through the legislative process or being implemented.

Mobile operator initiatives for managing e-waste

Although in many cases there is no specific legislation or proper management, the Latin American mobile industry conducts voluntary e-waste management campaigns and initiatives as part of its corporate social responsibility programmes.

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Regional mobile operators are developing reverse logistics schemes for collecting, storing, categorising and disposing of e-waste. At the same time, they are involved in other initiatives such as investing in recycling programmes and plants, conducting reforestation activities and heading awareness campaigns.

The GSMA report “eWaste in Latin America: the contribution of mobile operators in reducing electronic waste” highlights success stories of e-waste from regional industry.

Climate Change management in the mobile ecosystem

According to the GSMA “2016 Mobile Industry Impact Report: Sustainable Development Goals“, the SDG 13 “Climate Action” is one of the goals where the mobile industry can contribute the most.

mobile-climate-changeAiming to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts” the mobile ecosystem can work on mitigation (energy efficiency, IoT solutions for enviromental monitoring, water management or smart cities) as well as on adaptation (disaster response).

GSMA promotes and spread the strategies and best international practices to manage climate change from the mobile operators perspective and the innovative solutions than the companies can implement to protect environment and reduce GHG emissions. According to the GeSI Mobile Carbon Impact report How mobile communications technology is enabling carbon emissions reduction: “The carbon emissions abatement enabled by mobile communications technology today is approximately five times greater than the carbon emissions from mobile networks“.

Energy efficiency in the mobile networks

With global energy spending by mobile operators standing at $17 billion a year, energy efficiency is increasingly seen as a strategic priority. As mobile use increases, so does the demand for energy, particularly by network infrastructure.

mee latamReducing carbon emissions is also becoming a priority in the mobile industry. In this context, the GSMA launched the Mobile Energy Efficiency initiative to help operators measure and monitor the relative efficiency of their networks. This service identifies underperforming networks and quantifies the potential efficiency gains available, which are typically 10-25 per cent across an operator’s portfolio. Carbon emissions are also benchmarked if requested.

Success stories have already been seen in Latin America:

To date, more than 40 mobile network operators have taken part in the benchmarking, accounting for more than 200 networks in 160 countries and more than 50 per cent of global mobile subscribers.

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