Governing solar electronic waste recycling in Kenya


Start date: 1 April, 2021 End date: 30 September, 2023 Project type: Research projects in countries with targeted development cooperation (earlier Window 2) Project code: 20-M07DTU Countries: Kenya Thematic areas: Waste management, Lead institution: UNEP DTU Partnership (UNEPDTU), Denmark Partner institutions: University of Nairobi (UoN), Kenya Kenyatta University (KU), Kenya Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Denmark Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Ulrich Elmer Hansen Total grant: 4,998,719 DKK

Project summary

The diffusion of small-scale, off-grid solar (OGS) devices, such as solar lanterns and solar home systems, have increased rapidly and significantly across countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The solar electronic waste (SEW) being generated and disposed of is increasing at a similar pace, which has raised concerns about the overall sustainability of the OGS sector. OGS devices contain various hazardous materials, such as lead and cadmium, the disposal of which may cause serious adverse effects to human health and the environment. At the same time, the processing of SEW in local recycling economies may involve substantial opportunities for employment and income generation. This project will conduct research in Kenya as a regional ’hot spot’ for SEW with the aim to identify appropriate private and public schemes for the collection and recycling of SEW in a manner that create economic value for local communities.

The project comprises of three interlinked work packages focusing on analysing:
(1) the role of leading OGS suppliers in governing SEW;
(2) the disposal practices of end-users and the processing of SEW in local recycling economies; and
(3) scenarios for future regulation and planning of SEW in Kenya. The findings from the project will feed into the political process in Kenya through close engagement with key government agencies and stakeholders.

The project will contribute to advance the literature on global value chains (GVC) specifically on waste and post-consumption processes. Specifically, the GVC framework will be further developed to allow for analyses of end-user product disposal practices, processing of waste in local recycling economies, and waste planning and regulation. The project is designed to advance relevant research capacity in Kenya especially from younger-level research involved in the project.


First year report
Overall, the project is making good progress and is proceeding according to the overall work plan as described in the initial project proposal. Specifically, as can be seen in the reporting of project outputs in the LogFrame matrix, the project has managed to meet all of the main deliverables and outputs so far. This is in spite of substantial challenges related mainly to the Covid-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions as well as changes in the staffing of the project.

The progress made and the high quality of the project outputs generated at this point reflects a dedicated team effort involving frequent interaction via virtual platforms and work on the ground undertaken by the Kenyan team members.

At this point, several highlights of the project can be mentioned. One paper has been published and two additional papers have been submitted. Two presentations at relevant conferences have been given while two stakeholder advisory committee meetings have been held. Danish project researchers visited Kenya in May 2022, which allowed team members to meet and cooperate in person as a key element of ensuring a fruitful working relationship and a common understanding. Ulrich Elmer Hansen and Paul Kamau presented project findings to a group of around 60 Kenyan DFC alumni’s at the Danish ambassador’s residency in Nairobi.

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