Recycling Plant to Tackle Electronic Waste Threat

Digital Content

amara Education, a non-profit organisation, has announced plans to open an electronic waste recycling plant in Mombasa by year-end, in a move that adds impetus to e-waste management.

The move comes just months after Computers for Schools Kenya (CFSK), another non-profit organisation, laid out plans to venture into large scale e-waste recycling by partnering with strategic partners to raise Sh230 million for the purchase of heavy duty recycling machines.

The increased interest in e-waste recycling comes as Kenya enters a new regulatory regime, with guidelines that are meant to steer the formation of a new policy to support recyclers of obsolete mobiles, fridges, televisions, and computers, among other electronic items.

The Dublin-based Camara has teamed up with computer hardware manufacturer HP to set up the plant that is expected to refurbish old computers for re-use in ICT training in learning institutions.

"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, the technical director at Camara. The plant is expected to handle 500 tonnes of e-waste in a year.

The increased usage of electronic goods has led to dangerous disposal of obsolete or defective items, a move that has been exacerbated by lack of recycling plants and an enabling policy framework. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the annual generation of e-waste in Kenya stands at 11,400 tonnes from refrigerators, 2,800 tonnes from TVs, 2,500 tonnes from personal computers, 500 tonnes from printers and 150 tonnes from mobile phones.

Mobile phone connections rose by 34 per cent from 12.9 million in 2008 to 17.4 million last year, which means that the volume of e-waste produced from mobile phones increased by the same percentage, according to statistics from the Economic Survey 2010 released by the Kenya National Bureau Statistics.

The move will help in reducing the level of e-waste dumping that has been on the increase on the back of rising imports of technology-based equipment without corresponding recycling capacity.

Most e-waste processing plants are located in Nairobi making it difficult for waste produced in other towns to access the plants.

The proposed plant will be at the Coast so that the by-products, including those components that would require complex recycling techniques that the plant cannot handle in the interim, can be shipped for processing and sale abroad.

This is also expected to boost revenues for the NGO in its initiative to provide Kenyan schools with free computers.

The lack of a strong policy has also partly contributed to low investment in e-waste recycling, leading to inefficient and unhealthy tear-down of items by informal workshops or scavengers.

But the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) is working on a policy that will see manufacturers and large ICT goods consumers like the government and learning institutions provide their e-waste to a new organisation that will pay them for collections.

The deepening of e-waste recycling is expected to create hundreds of new jobs across the entire value chain - from collection, transportation, storage, breakdown and restoration of electronic goods.