The variability in the generation, disposal and recycling of mobile phone e-waste according to social classes in Lang’ata area, Nairobi, Kenya
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The specific objectives of the study were to; a) establish the number of mobile phones operated by urban dwellers within different social classes in the Lang’ata area of the City of Nairobi, b) determine the phone replacement frequency and related driving factors, c) explore the fate of previous mobile phones and modes of disposal for retired phones, and d) assess the level of knowledge and awareness on the importance of mobile phone recycling. Both qualitative and quantitative data were obtained by use of a semi-structured questionnaire administered through informed adult consent. The study sample size comprised 385 respondents distributed proportionally among the three social class zones including the low class zone in Kibera (212), middle class zone in South C, Nairobi West, Madaraka and Nyayo Highrise (131) and upper class in Karen (42). It was established that most of the respondents in their lifetime had owned a total of 7 mobile phones on average. Those in the high class had owned upto 10 phones, while those in the middle and low classes had owned an average of 7 phones. The average number of phones operated at the time of the study was 2 phones per person. It was established that a majority of respondents (52.6%) across the social classes, replaced their mobile phones within a period of 2 years which was shorter compared to the replacement frequency in other parts of the world. The main driving factors for handset replacement were; phone price and functionality, phone brand, phone battery lifetime, internet connectivity, and phone applications. 52.2% of the respondents indicated that they disposed their retired or damaged phones in normal waste bins, while 34.6% gave them out for additional use by other people. 10.1% respondents indicated that they sold them out for re-use. The study established that majority of the handset consumers were largely ignorant about the environmental and human risks associated with mobile phone e-waste hence the casual approach in the disposal of retired handsets. Similarly, the level of education and awareness on the wasted opportunities associated with lack of mobile phone e-waste recycling was quite low and needs to be addressed.
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