Rwanda: E-waste project to create 1,000 jobs

A technician examines an old TV. The Bugesera-based project refurbishes electronic and solid waste. / Michel Nkurunziza.

Rwanda’s efforts toward a green economy and sustainable development have been strengthened by new initiatives implemented by government, including putting in place relevant policies and projects aimed at achieving these goals.

These undertakings are also geared at creating new jobs and helping improve people’s household income going forward, according to officials. One such project is the Rwf1.1 billion electronic waste dismantling and refurbishing plant in Bugesera Industrial Zone, Bugesera District.

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Technicians at work at the plant. The project is expected to create hundreds of jobs. / Michel Nkurunziza. 

The project is under the national e-waste management strategy that seeks to support the establishment of sustainable recycling industries as part of the country’s green development agenda. It is currently being operated by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and East African Community Affairs.

Olivier Mbera, the e-waste programme manager at the ministry, said the project has capacity to dismantle, clean and refurbish over 10,000 tonnes of electronic and solid waste per year.

He added that the materials are supplied to partnering recycling firms and industries, saying that the plant will not be making end-products. Approved in December last year, the project started five months ago and handles all types of electronic waste, the official said.

“The e-waste handling project is at an advanced stage…The initiative will promote environmental protection in the country by refurbishing and recycling old materials such as computers, TV screens, plastics, metals, among others. It will also create jobs and new business opportunities,” he explained.

Mbera said 100 tonnes of electronic and solid waste have been collected targeting the plant. Over 30 per cent of the dismantled and refurbished materials are plastic, while 50 per cent are metals, including copper.

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Officials at the electronic and solid waste handling facility in the Bugesera Industrial Zone. / Michel Nkurunziza. 

“The project is still being run by government, but we are seeking private firms to operate it under a public-private partnership scheme,” he added.

The official said 300 refurbished computers from the factory have already been distributed to selected primary schools under a partnership with Rwanda Education Board.

He said dismantled materials (scrap) could be sold at between Rwf300 and Rwf400 per kilogramme.

1,000 green jobs

The plant has set up electronic waste collection points in all 30 districts of the country and so far created over 200 green jobs. “Overall, more than 1,000 green jobs are expected to be created by the project,” Mbera told Business Times over the weekend.

Most of the e-waste is collected from the banks, universities and other institutions, adding that there would be incentives to people who ferry waste to the plant.

The project will be officially launched after the government has secured a private investor to operate it, according to Mbera.

Market for recycled materials

“We hope to get more waste since studies show that Rwanda produces over 15,000 tonnes of electronic and solid waste per year. The amount increases by 20 per cent as more electronics are imported and new industries come up,” he said.

Mbera said there is huge local market for dismantled and refurbished materials, locally and in the region.

The ministry says it is also discussing with local industries, STEELRWA, Rwanda Plastic Industries, Imana SteelRwa and SULFO to buy some of the recycled waste materials, while the rest could be exported to neighbouring countries.

Products from e-waste handling are reusable computers, printers, phones, air conditioners, electrical cooking stoves, refrigerators and car batteries.

It also handles scrap metal, plastics, and glass batteries that are sold recycling firms. Officials say plastics will be recycled into pellets and connection boxes, among others.

Commenting about the initiative, Coletha Ruhamya, the REMA chief, said the progress made by the e-waste recycling plant is impressive, adding that it is supported by money from the National Fund for Environment and Climate Change.

What garbage collectors say

Aimable Rwantunga, the general manager of COPED Company in Kamonyi District, told Business Times that the firm sells waste materials, including papers, plastics, scrap metals to recycling plants, while plastic bottles are sold to Uganda firms and scrap metals to local steel industries.

Industries speak out

Olivier Mabuza, a consultant for the factory’s development at Imana SteelRwa, said they need scrap metals, mainly steel to make iron bars. He said the initiative is timely, adding that there is a huge market for recyclable materials in the country.

He noted that there are also factories from Uganda that need aluminum scrap.

This, he added, will help create new jobs along the value chain and strengthen environmental protection efforts, ensuring that the country develops in a sustainable way.

The managing director of Rwanda Plastic Industries, Bernard Matabaro, welcomed the project, noting that it provides stakeholders many opportunities. He however said that Rwanda Plastic Industries uses its own recycled materials.

“We only receive back old beer crates from Bralirwa and then recycle them into other crates, but don’t accept or recycle plastic cans that have already been used by people,” he said.

The official, however, said there is need to invest in recycling of different materials to make products for industries or the service sector.

“That is why factories that recycle plastic bags, produce some construction materials from them rather than making similar goods again,” he said.

He explained that mixing old plastic chairs with say plastic cans to produce chair is not encouraged as it leads to substandard products.

Source: The New Times

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