Why one man declared war on e-waste

Who do you call when that cell phone dies or the fridge packs up? If you said Moses Kekana, you’d be right. Why he chose to be a green superhero committed to cleaning up e-waste. Minus the cape.

Black man lying on a bed with lots of electronic e-waste goods that no longer have a use around him.
By Lisa Witepski

We all have a small collection of electronic goods that no longer have a use – but Green Kid Enterprises is aiming to get them out of our drawers and garages, and give them new purpose.  

Here’s a frightening statistic: in 2019, around 53.6 million tons of electronic waste was produced – an average of around 7.3kg per person. More than 375 million empty ink and toner cartridges are thrown out every year, and end most of them end up in landfills. This means that 11 cartridges per second and 1 million cartridges per day are thrown away – and it takes 450 years for one printer cartridge to decompose.  

Only a very small percentage of this waste is recycled; primarily because people don’t know that this is possible, says Green Kid SA’s Moses Kekana. Plus, we are losing out on a valuable resource that may cut down on the materials needed to produce new goods. 

That’s why Moses is determined to turn the recycling of electronic waste into a mainstream activity. He formulated the first glimmer of this goal back in 2013, when he attended a C40 Cities Climate Leadership South Africa, in Johannesburg. “Global warming was a major focus, and there was a huge emphasis on how we all need to play a part in ending this crisis,” he comments. “That was when I decided I wanted to make a contribution by educating and encouraging people to collaborate effectively, share knowledge, and drive meaningful, measurable and sustainable action on climate change.” 

Moses was keenly aware that every single action we take impacts the environment. “’Green’ goes beyond the obvious, like driving less to reduce the carbon emissions from your car or recycling to prevent items from going to landfills. Even things like the stationery you use can make an impact,” he says. Indeed, he started his green agenda by selling recycled stationery – but, Moses says, ‘environmentally friendly’ products had yet to gain traction in a market still new to the concept, and South African consumers weren’t quite ready to use books and pens made from recycled materials. 

Undeterred, he turned his attention to e-waste collection. “Electrical and electronic equipment is anything that contains circuitry or electrical components with either a battery or power supply. EEE covers a wide range of items, including toasters, smoke alarms, monitors, telephones and mobile phones, electrical toothbrushes, coffeemakers and irons. Some less obvious items include spent fluorescent tubes, light emitting diode (“LED”) bulbs, batteries, battery-operated toys and printer cartridges that require electrical current to work properly,” he explains. 

Green Kid SA had been operating for some time before Moses decided to introduce the operation to Free State provincial government in 2019. The decision was a good one: in 2020, Green Kid SA was granted four approval from the Free State provincial government departments namely health; Destea (Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs); Police: Road and Transport and Sport: arts and culture. Added to this, Green Kid SA has signed on to recycle cartridges from organisations aligned to the department throughout the Free State, Gauteng and Northern Cape.  

Moses admits that the company has faced several significant challenges, among them recycling CRT glass and LCD monitors, the disposal of rechargeable batteries, and finding markets for flame-retardant plastics. Added to this, there is currently no technology in South Africa that allows for recycling fridges in a way that has minimal environmental impact. Then there’s the question of data privacy breaches: “We take every necessary precaution to ensure our clients’ business reputations are upheld, and use Certified Data Destruction to guarantee data destruction.” 

Moses is tackling these issues by educating organisations about IT asset disposal (ITAD); the systematic disposal of obsolete IT equipment in a way that is environmentally friendly, secure and generates a passive income stream from retired assets.  

In the meantime, Green Kid SA is working to expand operations into other provinces, and Northern Cape has become his second province. He’s also eager to work with informal waste collectors at landfill sites, e-waste workers and local residents, teaching them how to collect, store and dismantle e-waste effectively and legally.

To get in touch with Moses Kekana, visit the website, or email info@greenkidsa.co.za. Green Kid Enterprises is a business on the FNB Social Entrepreneurship Impact Lab programme.

This article was used with the permission of The African Mirror.

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