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The Camara hub in Kenya

By Carole Kimutai, Nairobi, Kenya

Hewlett Packard (HP) has announced plans to start an East African Computer Recycling (EACR) plant next month in partnership with Camara Education, an Irish volunteer organisation that uses technology to deliver education more effectively to disadvantaged communities in Africa.

EACR will officially open and operate Kenya’ s first IT e-waste recycling facility by the end of 2010, with the goal of improving health, safety and recycling standards and establishing a local, sustainable IT e-waste recycling industry.

“ HP is very excited that with the EACR, we will demonstrate that proper IT electronic waste management is an opportunity to generate local income and employment, while addressing current health and environmental impacts,” said Ken Mbwaya, HP Managing Director East Africa.

The EACR IT e-waste recycling facility is located in Kenya’ s coastal town of Mombasa. It will receive end of life IT from Camara Education’ s schools, business and public sector customers and the informal sector. With the aim of working to HP-approved health, safety and environmental standards, the IT e-waste will be assessed for reuse and refurbished if appropriate. End of life products will be dismantled and separated into the different parts, including plastics and metals.

The parts requiring more complex recycling processes will be sent to facilities with the technology to retrieve the valuable resources. The long-term aim of the facility is to be capturing up to 20 per cent of IT e-waste in Kenya.

“ Providing IT e-waste recycling is a logical extension of our current work in providing technology for schools across Kenya. Our engagement with HP will allow us to manage our own end of life equipment from schools and provide a local service where there is currently no provision for IT e-waste recycling, said  Eoghan Crosby, Technical Director, Camara Education.

A key element of this process is to encourage workers in the informal sector to understand the benefits of different approaches to IT e-waste recycling, both from a personal safety perspective, but also in terms of the economic benefits. For example, HP and Camara Education will educate workers that delivering whole products to EACR will have greater value, because formal break-up processes will ensure more value is extracted from collected materials and will minimise the human and environmental impact.

With the majority of IT electronic waste entering Africa today unregulated and economies across the continent growing, there is a critical need to look at developing formal recycling processes. The establishment of EACR in Mombasa will provide Kenya with an opportunity to be at the forefront of developing new standards for IT e-waste recycling that help to protect those working in the industry and enable Kenyans to benefit from the economic opportunities.

HP successfully runs electronic recycling projects in over 52 countries across the world. Through the HP Planet Partners return and recycling program, launched in 1987, the company has a corporate goal to recycle 2 billion pounds (900,000 tonnes) of hardware and HP print cartridges globally by 2010. To date 1,435 million pounds (650,000 tonnes) have been recycled and more than 275 million pounds (125,000 tonnes) have been reused. In total, more than 1.71 billion pounds have been recovered.

Camara operates as a social enterprise and operates in two distinct business lines: ‘ Education Delivery’ and ‘ Computer Reuse’ . The connection between these two, seemingly disparate activities is 'Technology'.

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