Global e-waste : Turning trash into treasure

By 2030 it is estimated that global e-waste will reach 74 million tonnes. It is the world’s rapidly growing non-industrial waste stream. From Tanzania to Ghana, entrepreneurs across Africa are turning electronic waste into treasure. 

Despite the government’s efforts to manage electronic waste, a major portion of it is not sent for recycling. The region with the highest rate of e-waste recycling is Europe. But according to the Global E-Waste Monitor Report, only 42% of e-waste in Europe was collected and recycled. 

Creative entrepreneurs in Africa are developing a thriving ecosystem which is giving new life to the materials in discarded electronics. 

An apt example would be a scrapyard in Agbogbloshie. It was once  labeled “the most polluted place on Earth”. But it is a budding place for thousands of informal workers who earn their bread and butter here. They use these scrap materials to create something new. They are the driving force behind upcycling and recycling. 

In Tanzania, makerspace Buni Hub uses e-waste to build 3D printers. It took them 8 weeks to build their first 3D printer. The team used stepper motors from old electronics, used steel rods from broken printers and power cables from discarded computers.

A startup called Appcyclers recently made a prototype egg incubator from discarded fridges. It is offering poultry farmers an inexpensive tool to hatch chicks. The company aims to promote recycling for a safer and greener environment. 

E-waste will be a constant challenge. Countries like America and Europe generate millions of tonnes of electronic waste every year. Many organizations have also been set up in Africa to help workers, artisans and scrap dealers to collaborate and also teach them necessary skills.  Entrepreneurs across the continent of Africa are putting e-waste to good use.