Addressing the Information and Infrastructure Gap in Solar e-Waste Management in Western Kenya
The project aims to conduct research on aspects of solar e-waste in western Kenya and to develop a database and tracking system for solar e-waste in the region.
The project also aims to pilot a take-back / buy-back business model based on reuse, refurbishment and recycling of solar e-waste in western Kenya and scale the model to other Counties and regions in Kenya in partnership with local regulatory authorities, industry partners and the informal sector.
The problem of solar e-waste is likely to grow in importance over the next several years following the surge in pico-solar and solar home system kits (SHSs) sales over the last 10 years. Since 2010, over 130 million devices have been sold worldwide (https://www.lightingglobal.org/), and the growth in the market is likely to continue.
Pico-solar and SHSs products have only a limited lifetime, and as many of the product sold over the last 10 years near their end of life, the contribution of solar products to e-waste will continue to grow. In rural Africa, where a bulk of pico-solar and SHSs products are sold, there is virtually no infrastructure for recycling, reuse and disposal of e-waste. In Kenya, for example, the government has become increasingly aware of the problem of e-waste, and increasing resources and effort is being put into addressing this issue.
Unfortunately, solar e-waste has not received the same attention as other e-waste, but this neglect is slowly being addressed. To ensure sustainable management of solar e-waste and to enable the sector to continue to grow and offer a renewable alternative to main grid electricity, innovative solutions need to be developed at this early stage.
Take-back / buy-back models offer one potential solution to managing solar e-waste. However, take-back / buy-back models for addressing solar e-waste suffer from a gap in information, infrastructure and income. The scale and distribution of solar products in rural Africa is not clearly known, and the dynamic of use, disposal and interest in reuse and recycling within the end-user population is little understood.
Furthermore, the infrastructure, both virtual and physical for tracking, collecting and using these products is very poor and until such an infrastructure has been developed, little can be done to address the issue.
Lastly, take-back / buy-back models are rarely financially viable. Further exploration and development of these models is needed to determine their viability and to successfully implement them. In this project, Solibrium aims to explore this problem through a public-private partnership built between a solar product distributor (Solibrium), the local government (in Kakamega County) and the informal repair and recycling sector.
Our project partner myclimate provides expert oversight and high-level stakeholder engagement on an international level for this project. In addition, they provide analysis of environmental impact of the informal (solar) e-waste sector in Kakamega as well as provide technical advisory services in project management.
In the first part of this project, Solibrium has been collecting data on various aspects of solar use, sale and disposal in Kakamega County, Kenya.
We aim to understand the following:
How are solar home systems (SHSs) distributed in Kakamega County?
How is the distribution of SHSs related to various infrastructure and demographics?
Can we predict the solar e-waste burden in the future?
And using this information, can we plan the ideal location of collection centres?
Corporate Strategy & Project Development Assistant
Assistant Director, Operations
Assistant Director, Research & Project Development