Recycling factory to help Kenya fight e-waste

By Semaj Itosno, Nairobi, Kenya

The fight against e-waste will gain momentum in Kenya with the expected opening of a new recycling plant in Nairobi.

The new factory will be a collaboration between East African compliant Recycling (EACR), DEG (Deutsche Investitions-und Entwicklungsgesellschaft) and HP.

The e-waste management system will feature collection, recycling to global standards and resource recovery.

EACR, which specializes in e-waste management plans to open the new factory before  next year for separation and dismantling of e-waste including domestic appliances, ICT electronics and mobile phones.

The project will commence with an initial pilot of four collection points each working with a network of registered informal sector workers.

“We firmly believe that e-waste management holds opportunities in skills transfer and revenue generation that can be turned into drivers for incorporating Africa’s informal recycling networks into economically, ethically and environmentally sustainable systems,” said Charles Kuria, MD, HP Kenya.

Kuria said training the informal sector to proper collection, dismantling and recycling of e-waste is key for Kenya to capitalize on revenue opportunities whilst ensuring e-waste management can operate as a self-sustaining system.

According to Robert Truscott, CEO, EACR, participants in all aspects of the recycling system will be trained to ensure adherence to globally recognised health and environmental standards.

“It has been a lifelong ambition to establish sustainable and profitable e-waste recycling in Africa, where the amount of e-waste is expected to grow and modern recycling methods are rarely established. There is a real opportunity for job creation around proper e-waste management,” said Truscott.

“HP is providing funding along with expertise to manage performance, reporting and e-waste support to ensure proper standards, specifications and the processing of materials is upheld.”

“The concept presented by HP and EACR for developing and recycling industry in emerging countries is suitable to trigger positive economic and social effects,” said Nikals Esser, a project manager  at DEG, a partner in the e-waste management project.

DEG is one of the largest European development finance institutions that aims to establish and expand private enterprise structures in emerging countries.

Herve Guilcher, HP’s Director of Environment, EMEA, said the growing topic of e-waste around the globe, chemical regulations as well as the growing concerns around climate change makes environmental management a clear priority.

E-waste is any electronic equipment or gadget that has reached end of life. In Kenya and most parts of Africa and Asia, there are no proper regulations to manageme disposal of e-waste meaning much of the waste ends up rubbish pits making recovery and recycling difficult.

According to UNEP,  in 2010 Kenya generated 11,400 tons of e-waste from refrigerators, 2,800 tons from TVs, 2,500 tons from personal computers, 500 tons from printers and 150 tons from mobile phones.

ICT is being extensively used in the education, health, industrial, trade and communication sectors. Private sector has been installing heavy computing equipments and data centers, mainly mobile operators, banks, and manufacturing sector companies and now with the laptop project, it is expected to increase more.

 In emerging countries, the rapid economic growth has led to a rise in the generation of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste), coming both from local consumers and recycling of second-hand equipment imported for re-use.

The European Environment Agency and United Nations Environment Programme estimate that 40-50 million tons of electrical equipment waste are produced each year globally. It’s increasing three times faster than all other types of domestic waste. 

For most of sub-Saharan African countries, the lack of a sustainable e-waste management infrastructure means that e-waste is collected and recycled in crude methods, causing the release of toxic chemicals to the environment and putting those refurbishing and dismantling e-waste at risk. This is aggravated by the fact these countries usually have little e-waste legislation and no regulations to protect the health of e-waste workers.

In October 2011, HP opened the East African Computer Recycling Company (EACR) in Mombasa, Kenya, in partnership with Camara Education, an ‘Education through ICT’ NGO working with disadvantaged communities in Africa.

 Kenya generates thousands of tons of electronic waste per year – waste that on the one hand can cause great harm to the environment, but on the other, can be used as a resource and an economic stimulus. EACR is operating Kenya’s first e-waste recycling facility, operating to international health, safety and environmental standards and establishing a local, sustainable IT e-waste recycling industry. Until now, the facility received end-of-life IT from business and public sector customers, as well as from the informal sector, assessing the waste for refurbishment or recycling. EACR offers its workers advice on handling e-waste containing hazardous materials such as lead and cadmium.

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