Dell Unveils an E-Waste Recycling Hub & Marketplace in Africa to Boost the Lives of Slum Women

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Dell-Women in Mukuru Slums
Dell-Women in Mukuru Slums
Dell-Women in Mukuru Slums

A Dell-sponsored a project in the Nairobi’s Mukuru slums has micro financed and created jobs for 27 women in Kenya, changing their lives for good.

The project aiming at women in the infamous slum, trains the women, loans them funds via mobile money to purchase and resell waste which they earn a profit on. This is expected to see the women come out of poverty, prostitution and crime popular in informal settlements. In its first two weeks, women participating in the Dell-Mukuru collected 1.5 containers of e-waste, which was resold to the new recycling hub. Prior to the program, women from Mukuru often used unsafe and unhealthy means to collect and resell e-waste to the informal market.

The global PC maker has also joined Nairobi’s E-Waste Solutions Alliance for Africa to unveil the East Africa Compliant Recycling hub–the first large-scale e-waste recycling facility in the region.

The two groups have also launched a new e-waste business to be supported by a regulatory model tailored for developing countries but  developed by Kenyan officials and representatives from non-governmental organizations and the IT and e-recycling industries. The hub was designed by industry, in collaboration with policymakers.

According to Jean Cox-Kearns, Director of Compliance, Dell Takeback, “It is so exciting to see this sustainable model be implemented on the ground in Nairobi, creating green jobs and implementing a solution that deals with e-waste being generated both in Kenya and the greater East African Region, and providing environmentally sound management of e-waste collected.”

An innovative business model that creates jobs

The e-waste hub has shipping container-housed collection points located throughout Kenya and each collection point functions independently as a small businesses, purchasing e-waste from newly-trained individual collectors.  Four collection points have been established already with two fully funded by Dell – and forty more are planned.

Once a shipping container is filled to capacity, its contents are resold to the main hub where the e-waste will be sustainably processed into material fractions and sold back to the technology industry.  The e-waste collectors earn, the collection points earn and as well the main hub earns and thereby  protecting the environment.

The model is aimed at creating thousands of green jobs at the facility and across supporting logistics and collection networks, in part by converting existing informal-sector e-waste “pickers” into trained and legitimately-compensated e-waste collectors. Dell and others have invested in training programs to educate workers on the safe collection and recycling of e-waste.

 

The Honorable Amina A. Abdalla, MP, Chairperson, Committee of Environment and Natural Resources, Kenyan Parliament  said the country is looking at ensuring that e-waste is recycled in such a manner that ensures people not exposed hazardous materials.

“We’ve invested in getting out a regulation that is more proactive managing e-waste. With the regulation, its enforcement, and partnering with not only recyclers but producers, we’ll go a long way in addressing these challenges.”

A practical, sustainable regulatory approach

Developing regulations from Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority will help generate capacity for the new e-waste hub by requiring electronics companies to meet certain thresholds for e-waste collection and treatment.

Underscoring the regulatory framework is the recognition that, particularly in developing countries, e-waste has monetary value. That value, combined with the lack of a sustainable e-waste recycling infrastructure in East Africa, likely would have abated the effectiveness of common regulatory approaches to funding and managing e-waste collection and recycling, such as import fees. Those means also could make computing less affordable for Kenyan citizens and public and private-sector organizations.

Agreeing to the fact that e-waste has monetary value and could make life better for all Akinyi Kaudia,  Environment Secretary,  Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources said, “We are seeing green technology is good business sense, not just because it creates profits, but if the persons working for such a company are of higher health status because of a good environment, then productivity also goes up. We want to create jobs, particularly for our youth. So it’s a triple way: We have a clean environment, we have jobs created, we have industrial growth and economic growth of the country.”

Other African nations have monitored the development of new regulatory model, with a view to replicating the approach.

Advancing Dell’s Legacy of Good 2020 goals

As a global leader in the collection and recycling of e-waste, Dell’s 2020 Legacy for Good Plan aims to recover 2 billion pounds of electronics and reuse more than 50 million pounds of recycled-content plastics in its products by 2020. Integral to both goals is the ability to access e-waste in developing countries, using methods that do not put people or the environment at risk.