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E-waste: Kenya's diamond in the rough

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 02:11

Mar 25 - A supply chain of slum residents, rubbish collectors, recyclers and exporters are turning Kenya's e-waste burden into a lucrative business venture. Ivor Bennett reports

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Nairobi's Kibera district isn't often considered a place of wealth creation. It's Africa's largest slum - most of its one million population live on less than the minimum wage. But Leonard Ngatia has found an unlikely source of income. He collects eletronic waste from local repair shops - earning up to 45 dollars a day. (SOUNDBITE) (Swahili) LEONARD NGATIA, SOWETO YOUTH GROUP COLLECTOR, SAYING: "We don't make money everyday but what we do get, we are able to plan for - we buy what we can, we pay rent... I can't complain." Electronic waste can be a lucrative business. For every one million phones, there's 9 tonnes of copper, 24 kilograms of gold, and 250 kilograms of silver. Kenya generates thousands of tonnes of e-waste every year. But HP's Charles Kuria feels that so far, the resource is largely untapped. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CHARLES KURIA, MANAGING DIRECTOR HP EAST AFRICA, SAYING: "We need to educate the population that this so called electronic waste is actually a resource. It becomes a resource when it is recycled in the correct way." But the waste can be dangerous too - releasing harmful toxins when burnt the wrong way. This plant in Nairobi is educating collectors like Leonard on how to handle it properly. It's also promising jobs - Claiming to be Kenya's first sustainable e-waste recycling centre, it plans to create a network of collection points across the country that'll process the waste and sell it back to the companies it came from. CEO Robert Truscott. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ROBERT TRUSCOTT, CEO EAST AFRICAN COMPLIANT RECYCLING (EACR) LTD. SAYING: "This is the first model of its kind, not just in Africa but anywhere in the world. This model is about connecting the collector to the global markets for the materials, and providing them with a fair and transparent price in actual fact to ensure they get the maximum value for the waste." There's certainly no shortage of electronic waste. The amount produced worldwide is expected to reach over 65 million tonnes by 2017. An increase of a third in the last 5 years alone.

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E-waste: Kenya's diamond in the rough

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 02:11