Modelling waste generation by the telecom sector in Nigeria

Since the introduction of digital mobile technology into Nigeria in 2001, there has been a phenomenal improvement in mobile subscription, service delivery and in the overall penetration of mobile telecommunication into rural areas in the country. For instance, the country's teledensity increased from less than 1% in 2001 to about 25% in 2006 — an increase of more than 3000%.

The aim of this paper is to predict improvements in telephone penetration and waste generation by the Nigerian telecommunications sector. This was achieved by regression analysis of available data on telephone subscription in the country. Our estimations indicate that an average of 3 million phones will be retired annually in the country. Considering an economic phone life of 4 years, the over 32 million phones, (weight estimated at about 3200 tons) in use in 2006 would be at their end-of-life (EoL) by 2010.

This volume of waste may contain up to 1800 tons of waste plastics, 15 tons of lead and 124 tons of copper. Our derived regression equation also indicates that mobile phone penetration in the country would be about 40% by 2010. This implies that over 55 million mobile phones would be in use by 2010. The grey side of this impressive statistics is that waste generation by the telecommunications sector will also follow this trend. This paper also highlights the need to introduce a framework for the effective management of waste from this sector considering the toxicity of some of the components of mobile phones and accessories and the prevailing inappropriate disposal practices for such potentially 'toxic' materials.

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