Local e-waste skills NGO joins global recycling initiative

7th May 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

Local recycling skills development nongovernmental organisation (NGO) The Appliance Bank (TAB) has partnered with global recycling initiative Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI) in a project that aims to create economic opportunities while ensuring workable and safe solutions for the management of e-waste.

TAB will create training materials to support the collaboration and help scale the intended impact of the SRI initiative in South Africa. The pilot project is kicking off in iLembe, KwaZulu-Natal, which will see TAB working with waste pickers and providing technical appliance repair training.

The pilot project will also see the team work with the informal waste sector to collect e-waste through a newly developed app, says TAB co-founder and CEO Tracey Gilmore.

TAB provides a two-year training programme for unemployed people to establish their own sustainable businesses, and gives them the technical skills needed to repair donated household appliances and sell them for a profit in their communities, or to repair damaged and customer-returned small household appliances.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment estimates South Africa’s e-waste at about 360 000 t/y.

A techno-economic study in 2014 revealed that more recycling of e-waste could bring notable benefits to South Africa. If the country manages to increase its recovery of e-waste for recycling from the current 10%, to 30%, it will yield an additional R32-million a year injection into the economy.

The national SRI project team aims to develop an e-waste policy on national and local level, define minimum working conditions for the formal e-waste value chain partners and facilitate strategic informal sector integration. It will also assist with the development of auditing skills and capacity to assess e-waste value chain operators and oversee the development of a national e-waste learner curriculum.

Piloted in 2015 as a strategic partnership with The Clicks Group, TAB had 89 active businesspeople in 2020 who sold goods for a profit of R5.4-million and around 22 000 units of e-waste materials were recycled.

TAB does this to prevent damaged appliances from being disposed of in landfills and in support of the circular economy.

In all its activities, the SRI programme strives for an inclusive approach of enabling beneficial economic conditions for the formal industry stakeholders and the informal sector. Therefore, the programme leverages steps and strategies leading to both a resource preserving circular economy transition and contributing to actions on climate change mitigation through the recovery and reintegration of secondary raw materials into industrial processes.

“South Africa can only benefit from projects like the SRI that will create a more inclusive economy and contribute to sustainable growth. Apart from all the research learnings we will obtain from the SRI project, it provides an essential platform to build on our programme through improving our training material, continuing our contribution to improving our country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and aiding job creation,” says Gilmore.