Turning a Negative Into a Positive

With the ever evolving of the tech gadgets and electronics, not only is there an increase in the overall purchasing and acquiring of such products, but there is an equal yet more alarming increase in the accumulation of the older abandoned products.

Have you ever wondered what happened to your old phone or pc, the battery that got ruined a while ago and you had to change it, or the RAMS that you discarded when you went for a full upgrade to your laptop? When we don't get rid of old electronic devices through the proper route of recycling, what happens is they tend to pile up like the picture below.

Imagine that your country is not only being filled with e-waste produced by its citizens, but moreover, e-waste is being sent over to your country from other major tech consuming countries. That would be crazy, right? Like, how is your country supposed to deal with all of that?

Well, that is what's happening in Kenya. Apart from its growing e-waste produced by Kenyans when they shift to new electronic gadgets, it is estimated that 15,000 tons of computers, phones and gadgets are being shipped to Kenya on an annual basis from western countries and the U.S in particular.

If this growing problem is left unsolved, then an alarm would be raised for how the future environmental and health situation would be like for Kenya.

"We want to make sure that it's sorted out and we, we'll be able to be ahead of the situation before it poisons our rivers and our people." Says Amina Abdullah, Head of Kenya's special environmental committee.

In order to face that problem before it evolves further, an initiative has started which is funded by Kenyan investors, the German Development Bank, HP and a private businessman experienced in the field. This initiative is, establishing the first electronics recycling hub in Kenya!

The process starts with individual collectors who spend long hours every day scouting for discarded electronic products. Then, they take it to the collection point at Mukuru's where it gets sorted and weighed. Dell cooperated with the government to write a legislation for electronic waste, and they are currently sponsoring the collection container.

"The regulation we are producing deals with the fact that if you are bringing to the country, if you are a producer of an electronic gadget and you sell it to Kenya you will need to have the responsibility of dealing with it once it becomes obsolete" says Amina Abdullah.

Dell on their part are being highly supportive and integrated in the project, for as Jean Coc Kearns says, "Dell has a responsible commitment to the product that we put on the market and so we want to help to collect that product when its life ends."

Moreover, along with reducing the e-waste problem, this project actually contributes to Kenyans employment and income. For one thing, the electronics recycling hub is entirely staffed by Kenyans, and there is always incoming containers to be sorted and worked on which ensures the prospect for long term work.

The project allows people's outlook on waste in general and e-waste in particular to change from regarding it as waste, and looking at it more like a resource due to the fact that is actually an income generator.

Robert Truscott, CEO East African Compliant Recycling says, "The importance of this goes far beyond Kenya. This is about proving a concept, an economic, social and environmental concept that works. And it's really envisaged that this model can be replicated in similar countries in Africa." 

There are two countries in Africa that are already marked as 'hot zones' for e-waste dumping, which are Nigeria and Ghana, along with several others.

Kenya's successful model now sets an example for African countries to follow its lead and it is has become an inspiration. Isaac Ntuju, Ugandan National Environmental Management Authority says "We could either send to the refurbishment facilities in Kenya or replicate what our brothers in Kenya are doing within Uganda." In either case, the outcome will be beneficial to both countries.

The thing about wrong waste disposal is that it doesn't just affect one country, but many of the other countries around it as well since more than often they share lakes and rivers. For that, it is highly encouraged that other countries would look up to Kenya, and that we would soon see new e-waste managing plants being  established in other African countries as well, which is one big step for a better future economically and environmentally.