BBOXX repair technician, Charles, refurbs a control box in the workshop at the BBOXX distribution centre. Kisumu, Kenya. (Photo: Jeffrey M. Walcott/GOGLA).
Off-grid solar products have been transforming lives across the world, bringing energy access to many who live in remote rural areas. Since 2010, over 120 million people have benefited from off-grid solar products, with access to electricity, improved income, and better health and education opportunities. With the lasting economic, social and environmental effects of off-grid solar, investments in the sector have been growing rapidly.
All in all, off-grid solar is a clean, affordable and reliable source of electricity. But what happens when off-grid solar products reach the end of their life span?
Sections of the industry have been raising concerns with regards to the disposal of solar products, stating that if not managed properly, they represent environmental and health & safety risks for both consumers and people who might handle products at the end of life stage.
So, what are we as an industry doing to ensure better e-waste management of off-grid solar products?
Managing e-waste in the off-grid solar sector has been on the agenda for a long time, and recognized as an area that should be dealt with by individual companies – indeed, a GOGLA Industry Opinion from 2014 promotes a voluntary Extended Producer Responsibility approach.
In January 2018, during the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum in Hong Kong, the industry came together and decide to act on these risks, working on ways in which they can tackle the off-grid solar e-waste problem. In April 2018, GOGLA, M-KOPA and CDC convened a workshop of industry leaders to discuss the status, challenges and opportunities for improved e-waste management. The GOGLA e-waste Working Group was born from this group and the e-waste Toolkit project proposed.
The industry discussed solar e-waste at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum in Hong Kong (January 2018). Photo: GOGLA