The Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in Uganda is home to some 270,000 refugees, largely from South Sudan. It’s now the site of a new program to safely remove e-waste from solar lanterns and their batteries, in what the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says will also provide training and jobs to its residents.
People living in the camp rely on the solar lanterns for light but don’t have any way to repair lamps that have failed, or those with components missing because they’ve been repurposed to power mobile phones. Removing the parts and storing them improperly raises the risk of both environmental and health impacts because of the cobalt, lithium, and manganese found in them.
“An important aspect of the intervention will be to educate communities about the dangers of poor disposal of solar products,” said Peter Batali, executive director of one of the project partners, Uganda-based Community Technology Empowerment Network (CTEN).
Other partners in the Uganda project include BRIGHT Products, the Netherlands-based Solvoz, and Total Energies Offgrid Solar Solutions (TEOSS).
IOM and its project partners say the pilot program will be used to set up collection and repair centers for the solar lamps, and begin with training for seven technicians to test, repair and assemble lithium-ion batteries. They’ll also assess how the project can be scaled up and replicated in other places.
TEOSS also plans a facility so that lithium batteries from solar products that can’t be repaired are repurposed into battery packs for powering homes, businesses, or other facilities.
“This project is greatly going to contribute to reducing e-waste in Bidibidi,” said Sanusi Tejan Savage the IOM Chief of Mission in Uganda. “The lessons from this pilot are going to influence future interventions that will focus more on the environmental sustainability of solar items.”
Image: IOM/Abuabker Mayemba