Off-Grid Solar E-Waste: Impacts and Solutions in East Africa

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Electrification is growing rapidly in East Africa, with off-grid photovoltaic capacity projected to reach a 1,000 MW by 2022. This growth is accompanied by an inevitable increase in solar e-waste, potentially reaching 5,000 tons in that time frame. Without proper management, this waste is subject to open dumping or informal treatment by local waste management entities. Both of these potential outcomes pose detrimental environmental and health risks. With the help of existing literature, interviews with industry experts, and a scenario planning exercise, this project aimed to identify business and policy-based recommendations to plan for this growth in electrification. The analysis focused on lanterns as well as small and large solar home systems. Based on the financial value of the materials that could be derived from recycling these products, our results show that refurbishment and repair is currently the more feasible end-of-life management option. The main recommendation for the off-grid solar sector involves collaboration between producers, in a pre-competitive space, that focuses on consumer education, modular design, and investment in product take-back infrastructure and recycling technologies. A complementary policy would require device producers to be responsible for the end-of-life management of their products.





Balasubramanian, Sneha, Dharini Clare and Sarah Ko (2019). Off-Grid Solar E-Waste: Impacts and Solutions in East Africa. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.