The increased use of computer and electronic appliances in Africa and more so in Kenya has made life easier for a majority of the population. However have you ever asked yourself what hazards your old discarded mobile phone, computer or other electronic appliances pose to the environment and how they can be safely destroyed?
Technology firm HP has set up the first E-Waste plant in East Africa to help address this problem. HP's Director of Environment Herve Guilcher enumarates on its operations.
Q -Kindly give us a background on the HP Kenya ICT/E waste management plant that has been piloted in Mombasa since 2009.
The East Africa Compliant Recycling was designed as a scalable model for e-waste recycling. It was established in Mombasa in October 2011 as a pilot project with funding from HP. The EACR was the first facility of its kind in East Africa to test a practical approach to e-waste recycling. The objectives were to:
• Analyse and measure volumes of e-waste returned
• Establish the process to safely separate the products into parts
• Identify facilities and markets to process all the resulting dismantled materials
Since beginning official operations, the EACR remains the only recycling facility in Kenya to accept, dismantle and separate all e-waste components, not just the valuable resources. Plastics, glass, batteries - everything - are all disposed in accordance with the highest international criteria while generating local income and employment opportunities.
And In June 2011, in large part due to the presence and services of the EACR centre, HP expanded its free hardware recycling service for commercial and enterprise customers to Kenya. This is the same convenient service that HP provides in more than 50 countries; customers can simply go online and request the service, which includes the recycling of hardware from any vendor and isn’t dependent on the purchase of HP products (with respect to Kenya). www.hp.com/recycle
Q- The project is due to be commissioned officially in Nairobi at EPZs site—please tell us more about this project and how soon it shall start operating here?
In April 2012 HP announced that this facility, operating to international health, safety and environmental standards, would expand under new ownership and with a broader mandate. The renamed East African Compliant Recycling facility (formerly East African Computer Recycling), which was previously managed by an NGO, is currently at a transition phase, and its running has been taken over by a UK-based professional recycler named Reclaimed Appliances Ltd., which plans to open a Nairobi facility in the near future.
Applying the professional recycling expertise of Reclaimed Appliances, the EACR is broadening its mandate to handle all classes of e-waste, not just IT, including refrigerators, televisions, and coffee makers - anything with a plug or battery. The establishment of the new facility and network reaffirms HP’s commitment to leading industry in addressing the e-waste situation in the East African region. The facility will continue to involve the informal sector and facilitate the management of e-waste as a resource in the region
During this transition period, HP customers can still arrange for the collections of their e-waste via the HP website, and the informal sector workers in Mombasa can make arrangements for the e-waste they have collected.
The expansion of the EACR recycling facility in Kenya demonstrates that the proper management of e-waste in Africa is achievable. E-waste is a resource and properly managed generates local income and employment while fully addressing current health, safety and environmental impact issues.
Q -Where are the other HP waste management plants sited in different parts of the world?
The HP Planet Partners Program, is available in 57 countries and territories around the world and has resulted in HP reaching a milestone of responsibly recycling 2 billion pounds of electronic products and supplies since 1987 to date. See www.hp.com/recycle
Q-Please tell us about its capacity and capability to recycle some of the ICT related products such old discarded computers’ CPU, monitors, printer, and even mouses and printers’ cartridges among others?
Since its inception, the EACR has been unique in Kenya because it has accepted e-waste products from anyone: HP business customers, NGOs, government, informal sector (those individuals collecting from dumpsters and sites that don’t have the EACR facility’s health, safety and environmental standards) and schools.
More than 20 percent of the e-waste delivered to the EACR comes from the informal sector. The centre offers training programs on the hazards involved in the activity of informal e-waste collection, and the new facility in Nairobi will continue to offer all of these programmes and services.
Until now, the EACR centre has collected IT from more than 151 customers, and in one month alone processed nearly eight tonnes of IT from Kenyan businesses and informal collection schemes.
Q -Kindly tell us more about the plant’s requirements in terms of technology-equipment-skills, staff and other needs such electric power/energy needs etc ?
Operating to the highest HP-approved international health, safety and environmental standards, the EACR facility accepts all types of e-waste. End-of-life products are dismantled and separated into the different parts, including plastics and metals. The parts requiring more complex recycling processes are sent to facilities with the technology to retrieve the valuable resources.
4-What is the rationale of the project and how much has it cost the company?
HP established the EACR to test a practical approach to recycling and to demonstrate that e-waste could be successfully managed as a business. The collection of e-waste in Kenya is already managed by the informal sector. What was needed was a place where the e-waste could be managed according to the appropriate health, safety and environmental standards.
Collaboration between governments, NGOs, academics, OEMS, importers of new and used products and recyclers is essential to address the e-waste problems in Africa. For example, HP has been working with the Kenyan environmental authorities (NEMA) and the Kenyan Environment ministry along with organisations such as the United Nations Environment Programme and AMCEN as part of its commitment to helping to facilitate and create the right technical, educational and organizational structures to manage e-waste safely and efficiently.
Q - What different products shall the plant manage in environment-friendly ways and even recycle?
The EACR is broadening its mandate to handle all classes of e-waste, not just IT, including refrigerators, televisions, and coffee makers - anything with a plug or battery. Since beginning official operations, the EACR remains the only recycling facility in Kenya to accept, dismantle and separate all e-waste components, not just the valuable resources. Plastics, glass, batteries - everything - are all disposed in accordance with the highest international criteria while generating local income and employment opportunities.
Q -The project must be founded on some form of technology transfer—from where is the technology and expertise for the waste management being sourced—has it involved immense training and who shall manage the technology in the country and region?
As part of its commitment to Extended Producer Responsibility, in 2007 HP began developing a programmatic strategy and action plan to address the e-waste problem in Africa. Broadly, HP’s involvement in the ‘e-waste’ in Africa program is structured around three main lines of activity.
Conducting research and feasibility studies to assess current e-waste practices and policies in African countries.Facilitating education and training for informal sector workers and others in the African waste management supply chain. Providing technical and financial support on a variety of waste treatment and recycling projects on an ongoing basis.
Q -HP Kenya Ltd CEO has in the past indicated that the plant shall deal with waste from all ICT and E institutions in the country—how shall HP Kenya meet costs of running the programme on behalf of others and how shall the company benefit?
E-waste is a resource and can be managed properly as a self/sufficient business. HP can’t disclose investment figures, but we can say that HP provided initial seed-funding and logistical support in addition to business and management expertise as well ongoing recycling and environmental counsel to support the EACR facility.
It will take time to generate the appropriate levels of awareness, participation and recycling volumes to make the facility self-sufficient from a financial perspective. The professional recycling expertise of Reclaimed Appliances will help the EACR achieve its objectives.
Q -Please expound more on the possibilities of HP Kenya partnering more with other private sectors companies and government(s) (in PPPs) in taking this project to even more advanced dimensions in caring for the environment as ICT and mobile connectivity become more of the in- thing in the country and region.
HP and Reclaimed Appliances are excited about the potential of the EACR centre to drive leadership in e-waste recycling for Kenya, positioning the country as a hub for the management of e-waste in the broader East Africa region.
Q-Please tell us more about HP policy on Safety, Health & Environment (SHE).Does HP has a deliberate scheme or policy on recycling of waste products/materials?
As noted earlier, as part of its commitment to Extended Producer Responsibility, in 2007 HP began developing a programmatic strategy and action plan to address the e-waste problem in Africa. Broadly, HP’s involvement in the e-waste in Africa program is structured around three main lines of activity.
Conducting research and feasibility studies to assess current e-waste practices and policies in African countries. Facilitating education and training for informal sector workers and others in the African waste management supply chain. Providing technical and financial support on a variety of waste treatment and recycling projects on an ongoing basis.
Q - What strategic plans are in place to take the project forward in the next 5 to 10 years?
It’s HP’s goal to help the EACR become the standard for sustainable e-waste recycling by which all similar initiatives in Africa are measured. This will help increase the volume of e-waste recycling carried out to the highest health, safety and environmental criteria.
Q -What are your final comments and observations regarding this project or other endeavours to conserve the environment generally in the country and region?
Creating a sustainable solution for e-waste in Africa requires a number of factors, including a policy that encourages investment and infrastructure building, while taking into account local conditions; plus a collaboration among governments, NGOs, academics, OEMS and importers of new and used products and recyclers is essential to address the e-waste problems in Africa ; and it’s also important that the above is facilitated by a change in mindsets, an approach that stimulates drivers for sustainable business models to recover value from all e-waste and creating markets for fractions of e-waste which currently have no market.
According to Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority, each year the country generates 3,000 tonnes of electronic waste. E-waste is a growing challenge in Kenya and other parts of Africa, and an issue that businesses, NGOs, the public sector and IT vendors need to work together to address.
The establishment of the EACR is a milestone in HP’s efforts to introduce a new approach to e-waste recycling in Africa that considers the environmental, health and economic benefits that can be derived from the correct processing of e-waste.
The initiative provides Kenya with an opportunity to be at the forefront of developing new standards for IT e-waste recycling and proper care for the environment. HP also works closely with other electronics manufacturers and invited them to join an Alliance to work together on solving the problems of e-waste.
Finally there is also the opportunity for Kenya to become a recycling hub for the East Africa region bringing further economic benefits to the country.