Bringing light, connectivity and waste to local communities: A study of the post-consumption value chain for off-grid solar devices in Kenya

Christine Majale*, Godwin Opinde, Ivan Nygaard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

In areas with low penetration of grid-based electricity, off-grid solar (OGS) devices have for the last decade played an important role of providing light and access to communications. However, this has come at a cost in terms of creation of streams of electronic waste. To shed light on this issue, this paper explores how broken-down OGS are handled by post-consumption value-chain actors, and which factors are essential for reducing the amount of OGS-derived waste. The study is based on a household survey and interviews with value-chain actors. The Global Value Chain Framework was used for analysis. The empirical findings reveal that broken devices do not follow a linear trajectory from consumer to end destination, but rather move back and forth between repair and consumer, and even between different repair options, and that devices might hibernate at all these nodes, until they find an end-destination. Broken devices stored at home comprised 72 % while only 8 % were disposed of. Repair rates were high for devices brought to firm and informal repair shops alike, but the latter mainly did simple repairs due to a lack of skills, ‘black-box engineering’ and limited access to spare parts. Unlike other countries in the region, the vast majority of the broken devices are provided by larger international companies which, through their warranty and take-back schemes, could collect a significant percentage of the waste stream and repair or redirect it into established schemes for the recycling. In spite of recent attempts of regulation, this still has to materialize.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103516
JournalEnergy Research and Social Science
Volume112
Number of pages14
ISSN2214-6296
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024

Keywords

  • Off-grid
  • Solar
  • Device
  • Post-consumption
  • Value-chain
  • E-waste

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