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Solar energy companies get waste disposal solution

A recently launched intervention seeks to support solar home systems companies in Rwanda that decry high disposal cost hampering the efforts to collect and transport solar products waste to recycling companies.

A company is supposed to pay over Rwf500 per kilogramme of some solar products and Rwf150 per kilogramme of others depending on type of waste for their transport to recycling companies.

 

For instance one local company had one tonne of solar products waste but disposal cost had been a challenge.

 

However, the disposal cost could be reduced following the move to reduce it.

 

Energy Private Developers (EPD), an association bringing together all private companies operating in the energy sector in Rwanda and EnviroServe Rwanda, a public private partnership e-waste recycling facility in Bugesera District have launched a free-collection day of waste materials from all solar home systems companies working in Rwanda.

According to Olivier Mbera, the General Manager of the recycling facility, the free-collection day-launched last Friday will be held every last Friday of the month.

“We signed a disposal agreement. Some solar equipment have a five-year life span and if not disposed of, they could pollute the environment and affect human health with their chemicals,” he said.

He said although the plant pays the disposal cost for some facilities that are still valuable and can still be reused, the companies incur the disposal cost of other products.

“We pay the cost of some products that still have value but companies can pay around Rwf200 per kg of some solar product waste and Rwf1, 000 per kg of lithium batteries.  However with free-collection day, we will not be charging them. Also ordinary citizens do not pay disposal costs for the waste they collect and supply,” he explained.

He said that some equipment is dismantled and distributed for reuse.

Numbers

The recycling facility collected 300 tonnes of waste from solar products, in 2019 and this could increase to 400 tonnes in 2020.

Projections indicate that the solar waste could increase to 1,200 tonnes in 2021 and 1,400 tonnes in 2022 as off-grid energy is scaled up.

Solar waste takes 10 percent of between 3,000 tonnes and 4,000 tonnes of electronic waste generally collected per year.

Officials said that although 300 tonnes of solar products waste was collected last year, there was an estimated other 300 solar products waste that remain uncollected and end up intoxicating the environment.

Solange Mutezinka, the representative of Note Solar Lamp Company in Rwanda said that they target to build solar lamps factories and distribute the products but there they had no means of collection and disposal.

“Life span for some batteries is between five years and ten years and therefore, it requires the best mechanism for disposal through business to business partnership. We were facing a challenge as we at times have between 2,000 and 3,000 solar product waste but without space to dispose of them,” she said.

Robert Mugabe, the Director of Operations at Energy Private Developers (EPD), an association bringing together all private companies operating in the energy sector in Rwanda said that the new partnership will ease the pinch of disposal cost for waste from solar companies.

“They had no collection points and this challenge has been addressed. Cost of transport was a challenge and the new partnership seeks to address it. This is aimed at ensuring a proper and efficient waste management of hazardous solar materials that have reached their end of life in order to prevent human health threats,” he said.

The new campaign will see over 10 companies with hundreds of tonnes of obsolete solar energy products, materials, equipment and accessories being dumped at e-waste plants.

Over 30 companies in Rwanda that invested in solar lighting systems have been requested by the government to effectively observe international set standards of e-waste management.

Between 10,000 tons and 15,000 tonnes  of electronic waste are expected to be collected every year as only 40 % is currently collected.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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