E-Waste Collection: Making It Formal In East Africa

E-Waste Collection: Making It Formal In East Africa

East Africa’s first large-scale e-waste recycling facility is expected to convert existing informal-sector e-waste “pickers” into trained and “legitimately-compensated” e-waste collectors, according to a report in BusinessWire.

Collection sites for e-waste are planned around Kenya that will serve as small, independent businesses feeding into the new East Africa Compliant Recycling hub.

Dell leaders planned to join members of the E-Waste Solutions Alliance for Africa in Nairobi today to mark the opening of East Africa Compliant Recycling. The region’s first large-scale e-waste recycling facility will be supported by an e-waste collection model tailored for developing countries, the report said.

A U.S.-based computer technology company, Dell recently set goals to recover 2 billion pounds of electronics and reuse more than 50 million pounds of recycled-content plastics in its products by 2020. Integral to both goals is the ability to access e-waste in developing countries using methods that do not put people or the environment at risk, the company said. Dell develops, sells, repairs and supports computers and related products and services.

Africa is expected to outstrip Europe in the volume of e-waste it generates within the next five years, according to a report in Phys.org.

The new Kenyan e-waste collection model was developed by Kenyan officials and representatives from non-governmental organizations and the IT and e-recycling industries.

E-waste has monetary value. That value, combined with the lack of a sustainable e-waste recycling infrastructure in East Africa, has so far gone largely untapped, at least in the formal sector, according to the report.

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The model calls for shipping container collection points throughout Kenya. Each collection point serves as an independent small business purchasing e-waste from trained individual collectors. So far, four collection points have been established – two funded by Dell – with at least 40 more planned.

Once a shipping container is filled, its e-waste contents are resold to the main hub where the e-waste will be sustainably processed and sold back to the technology industry. Each stage of the process is designed to be profitable for participants, from individual collectors to collection points to the hub.

In addition to protecting the environment, the model aims to create thousands of green jobs at the facility hub and in collection networks, partly by converting existing informal-sector e-waste “pickers” into trained and legitimately-compensated e-waste collectors, according to BusinessWire. Dell and others have invested in training programs to educate workers on the safe collection and recycling of e-waste.

A separate Dell-sponsored project launched in November provided microfinancing and created jobs for 27 women from Nairobi’s Mukuru informal settlement, known as the Mukuru slums. After training, women use funds made available through mobile technology to buy and resell e-waste. In its first two weeks, women participating in the Dell-Mukuru project collected one-and-a-half containers of e-waste which was resold to the new recycling hub.

Prior to the program, women from Mukuru used unsafe and unhealthy methods to collect and resell e-waste to the informal market, according to the report. The report did not state what those methods were.

African countries are demanding action to stem the import of electronic waste, including old computers and mobile phones from Europe, where strict environmental laws make exporting used electronics cheaper than getting rid of them at home, according to a report in TheGuardian.