Recycling plant for old computers, phones to open by end of the month

Old computers, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets will soon be put to good use following the completion of a recycling plant scheduled to open in Bugesera District this month.
Part of e-Waste recycling plant in Bugesera District. (Courtesy)
Part of e-Waste recycling plant in Bugesera District. (Courtesy)

Old computers, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets will soon be put to good use following the completion of a recycling plant scheduled to open in Bugesera District this month.

According to officials, final touches are being put at the plant that will dismantle and recycle electronic and electrical equipment to offer an ‘end of-life’ solution for out-of-use electronic waste.

Olivier Mbera, the programme manager of the project under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and EAC affairs (MINEACOM), said the Rwf1.2 billion facility seeks to offer an “end of-life” solution for electronic and electrical waste while preventing a negative impact of electronic waste on the health or the environment once the equipment has become junk.

It will also strengthen the economy through creation of green jobs, according to officials.

“We have completed installation activities and we are currently testing machinery and equipment and training technicians. Everything is set and we are planning to launch the facility toward the end of February,”  Mbera said.

There are over 15 types of electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) from which some will be dismantled and recycled at the start to generate other valuable materials, according to Mbera.

Personal computers, printers, mobile phones, photocopying machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, televisions, washing machines, car batteries, dry cell batteries, stabilisers and electric cooking stoves are some of those to be recycled.

An inventory survey on EEEs and the expected amount of e-Waste to be generated revealed that there is an annual growth in the generation of e-Waste in the country, at about 5.95 per cent.

The survey indicated that Rwanda has an e-Waste annual generation potential of between 10,000 tonnes and 15,000 tonnes, according to Mbera.

However, the amount of e-Waste is expected to keep on growing given the current high demand of electronic and electrical equipment in the country.

Toward e-Waste management

The new facility, which is the first of its kind in the country, is expected to contribute toward the development of an e-Waste management system, including an up-to-date inventory, the design of an effective e-waste collection system and options for end-processing of non-hazardous and hazardous fractions.

Other than safeguarding the environment, the project is expected to save government billions of francs once e-Waste materials are dismantled and recycled for reuse, according to officials.

Referring to a computer, Mbera said it is made up of different components, including metals (steel), aluminum, copper, plastics, and cables.

“What we will do is separate all these materials; plastics will be crushed and washed so that they are reused in plastic industries, metals will be compressed and baled and steel manufacturing industries will reuse them, while circuit boards, printed circuits will be sold to smelting factories to recover valuable elements to reuse them,” he said

Mbera said the facility will look for partners to buy dismantled and recycled materials that will not be used by local industries.

“There is an assortment of e-Waste that would be wasted and cause environmental hazard, there are metals, plastics and when we do dismantling and recycling such materials will be reused in our industries to save on resources,” Mbera added.

He said there are various public institutions that are working together to ensure the sustainable e-Waste management in the country and that the facility runs smoothly and becomes more productive without causing any harm.

For instance, the Rwanda Utility Regulatory Agency (RURA) is currently working on e-Waste regulations and collection mechanism, the Ministry of Youth and ICT has developed the e-Waste policy, Rwanda Development Board will source for more investors, while Rwanda Standards Board (RSB) developed e-Waste management standards to be used by operators.

He said each district in the country will have an e-Waste collection centre from where the collected materials can be picked and taken to the recycling plant.

REMA upbeat 

According to the 2010 report by UNEP titled, “Waste and Climate Change: Global Trends and Strategy Framework,” methane gas from landfills represent the largest source of emissions from the waste sector contributing around 700 tonnes.

Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) says the plant comes as a solution to environmental challenges caused by e-Waste as electronics contain hazardous components which can pollute water and soil.

“There have been problems in the past to find disposal solutions for obsolete electronics in the country,” Remy Duhuze, the director of environment regulations and pollution control unit at REMA, said.

Duhuze said e-Waste are not normally disposed as other waste such as household items which can be landfilled.

An Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out to ensure that the facility complies with requirements but REMA will monitor the project once operations start, he noted.

“Electronics also have many components that can be reused and recycled which is also a good practice in waste management. Their disposal as any other waste was a kind of loss and therefore, there was a need for a specialised facility to accomplish this,” Duhuze added.

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