Governing solar electronic waste recycling in Kenya

Research project on the collection and recycling of electronic waste from off-grid solar devices in Kenya

The diffusion of small-scale, off-grid solar devices, such as solar lanterns and solar home systems, have increased rapidly and significantly across countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The solar electronic waste being generated and disposed of is increasing at a similar pace, which has raised concerns about the overall sustainability of the off-grid solar sector. The solar devices contain various hazardous materials, such as lead and cadmium, the disposal of which may cause serious adverse effects to human health and the environment. At the same time, the collection and processing of solar e-waste in local recycling economies may involve substantial opportunities for employment and income generation.

This project will conduct research in Kenya as a regional ’hot spot’ for solar e-waste with the aim to identify appropriate private and public schemes for the collection and recycling of electronic waste from small-scale, off-grid solar devices in a manner that create economic value for local communities. The project comprises of three interlinked work packages focusing on analysing: (1) the role of leading solar system suppliers in governing and managing e-waste from their devices; (2) the disposal practices of end-users and the processing of solar e-waste in local recycling economies; and (3) scenarios for future regulation and planning of solar e-waste in Kenya.

The findings from the project will feed into the political process in Kenya through close engagement with key government agencies and stakeholders involved in e-waste regulation. The project will contribute to advance the literature on global value chains specifically on waste and post-consumption processes, which will allow for analyses of end-user product disposal practices, processing of waste in local recycling economies, and waste planning and regulation. The project is designed to advance relevant research capacity in Kenya especially from younger-level research involved in the project.

In the project, UNEP DTU is cooperating with the following project partners: DTU Environment (Dept. of Environmental Engineering), University of Nairobi (Institute for Development Studies), Keynatta University (Dept. of Environmental Planning and Management), X-SOLAR, Stena Recycling, Recykla International and Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA).

The project is funded by the Danish Grant for Development Research under DANIDA.

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Country / Region: Africa, Kenya

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Ulrich E. Hansen

Senior Researcher

Phone: +45 4533 5298