Kibera in Kenya’s capital Nairobi is the biggest slum in Africa and one of the largest in the world.
Like many of its inhabitants, Leonard Ngatia has had to find a way of making a living: he collects discarded electronic material from repair shops around the slum. On a really good day, a hefty collection of scrap pieces from old computers and other electronic devices can earn him up to 35 euros.
“Instead of this waste being dumped, we pick it up and pay for it and then we get what we can get from it. So far, so good. It is a good thing because the money that you get in a day helps – we don’t manage to make money every day, but what we do get, we are able to plan for, we can pay rent… I can’t complain,” he said.
Electronic waste can be a lucrative business, but a deadly one too, releasing harmful toxins when wrongly disposed of.
Often, waste from developed countries ends up in developing nations, where people work in hazardous conditions for low wages to dismantle it.
Until now, Kenya’s e-waste industry has been largely uncontrolled. A new initiative launched in Nairobi links waste collectors to recyclers and exporters.
“We need to educate the population that this so-called electronic waste is actually a resource. It becomes a resource when it is recycled in the correct way,” explained Charles Kuria, East Africa manager of HP, which is taking part in the project.
With the amount of electronic waste set to exceed 65 million tonnes by 2017 – that’s a 33 percent rise in just five years – there will certainly be no shortage of material.