The increasing use of technology has seen thousands of information technology (IT) devices finding their way into Kenya, and with poor disposal, they put lives at risk and contribute to global warming.
Though Kenya is a signatory to international treaties regulating and banning the dumping of damaged and end-of-life electronics, it still imports large quantities of these goods that are considered too inefficient to be sold in the country of origin.
The appliances enter Kenya legally and a tax is paid to customs for their clearance.
After a few months of use, the devices become obsolete, and most users dispose of them at dumpsites without considering the dangers of the e-waste and the risks they will incur if information stored in the devices lands in the wrong hands.
Launched in 2019 before Covid-19 struck, Close the Gap Group seeks to make use of e-waste and refurbish devices to create income for young people while conserving the environment.
Kenya generates an average of 3,000 tonnes of e-waste each year from devices such as computers, monitors, printers, mobile phones, fridges, and batteries, said Timothy Wachira, operations manager at the Circular Economy HUB in Jomvu, Mombasa.
The hub strives to ensure that laptops that can be refurbished are resold in the market, he said.
“At our state-of-the-art IT asset disposition facility, we assemble computer components, mobile devices, spare parts, and other tech devices into affordable ‘made in Kenya’ circular computer devices. In the facility, we provide sustainable solutions for used IT devices,” he said.
A trained team registers the assets received, such as mobile phones, tablets desktops, servers and network equipment that are beyond repair, and tags them for tracking until they are disposed of.
“We use sophisticated and advanced software to wipe data in the devices such as user names, passcodes and passwords,” Mr Wachira said.
Close the Gap founder Olivier Eynde estimated that only about one percent of the e-waste generated in Kenya is properly disposed of.
“There has been an increasing demand for disposal of e-waste since it has negative effects on the environment. Poor disposal often leads to water and soil pollution, whereas burning it leads to air pollution,” Mr Olivier said.
The company which has employed 25 youth and offers internships, refurbishes about 40 laptops per month, which are resold at their Ratna Square shop in Nyali.
Mr Olivier said more companies and Kenyans at large need to be conscious of the environment and how they treat it.
He said there is little being done to educate the public about increasing e-waste, which ends up being mixed with ordinary household waste at dumpsites and landfills.
“There is a need to increase electronic recycling in Kenya and in Africa at large,” he said.
Statistics show that Africa recycles less than 0.1 percent of its e-waste yearly, while Asia recycles 11.07 percent and the Americas 9.4 percent.