August 15, 2021

Demystifying Circular Innovation Webinar Highlights

On Friday 6th August  2021, the Circular Innovation Hub (CIH) held the first of a series of web events aimed at creating awareness about how to innovate for sustainability.

Circular Innovation Hub (CIH) exists to create solutions to circular economy problems through innovations and entrepreneurship programs. CIH aims to create awareness on how to foster sustainability using innovative methods as well as highlight companies currently working in the space.

Our panellists were:

Njambi – Ggenge Makers –

Alex – Acceleron  –

Nyandia – Mokomaya –

Sarah – WEEE Centre –

During the event, the panellists covered a variety of topics like how they got started on their projects, where they find customers, challenges they face in the industry and concluded with information on how anyone looking to start innovating in the circular economy.

A few highlights from the conversation:

Njambi: Ggenge recycles plastic to make building materials. Plastic has also not been disrupted for a very long time. Challenges with Plastic: It is bulky, requires a lot of logistics to transport it, also; not all plastics can be recycled.  Currently, Ggenge working on a new building block  made of recycled plastic

Alex:  Acceleron recycles batteries. Acceleron started 3 years ago. Currently able to recycle up to 70% of the disposed of battery collected locally. Every 2 years people need to buy batteries, Acceleron recycle Lithium batteries that can last up to 13 years! For example, they recycle your laptop battery. They also sell R&D solutions – energy storage as a service, engineering as a service etc.

Sarah: WEEE centre collects electronics from individuals and corporates. They have drop-off zones in Carrefour and Safaricom and Estate drives. Opportunities for eWaste – all over the world there is a shortage of chips, it is possible to re-use chips from laptops to make new computers. WEEE centre pushing for various strategic partnerships. WEEE centre believes in the principle of the circular economy, repair-reuse-upcycle so they do the same for old laptops, household items etc.

Nyandia: Creates beautiful upcycled glass items. A designer by profession has always been tinkering with materials, when she started working with glass, she found it is very readily available. She makes different kinds of upcycled goods from glass.

Challenges or recycling and upcycling and other policy challenges:

Glass: Specialised equipment for cutting glass into a variety is expensive and not easily accessible

  1. Access to equipment to cut and shape the glasses recycled largescale remains a challenge..
  2. Access to support from relevant institutions in the country – “ we have a lot of glass waste but instead of focusing on reducing glass waste the default recommended solution by the Institutions existing is to create more glass products” .

Plastic: Plastic is bulky to transport

  1. Ggenge built its own facility for the plastc recycling – requires a lot of capital expenditure.
  2. Technology challenge:There are so many categories of plastic. Example: PVC, which has a chloride element is a very common plastic that is not recyclable.
  3. Logistics: Plastic is very bulky. Example: About 700kg plastic requires a value addition stage (crashing) to lower the volume before the plastic is transported.
  4. Final product of the recycled plastic has more demand than available supply – there is more demand than Ggenge can currently supply. To increase demand they need to get CAPEX funding. Very limited patient capital available locally. Local Capital is not patient capitol.

Battery: The biggest challenge is the adoption of the new technology

  1. Lithium recycling is a new technology, it has just been approved, so the products of the new technology are more expensive because of their high quality. People prefer to purchase cheaper  inferior goods and they regret – people not willing to adopt new technologies and invest. “People prefer cheap over quality”
  2. Governent doesn’t have many platforms available to assist the innovators to progress: when you go with a solution, they give you their own version of the problem and a corresponding solution.
  3. Applying for tenders, there is demand for kickbacks, this is not morally correctly.

E-Waste: Legal challenges and individual sentiments challenge

  1. E-waste is sentimental, people don’t want to release their ewaste without getting an incentive for releasing it. This is different from glass and plastic waste.
  2. The laws in the country are bit too rigid towards management of ewaste. Most materials are declared hazardous which  makes shipping in and out of ewaste becomes cumbersome. The term hazardous is being phased out though.
  3. Treatment of e-waste in a friendly manner is expensive, so without support from the government it limits the number of people who can do it. Positive- WEEE centre sits on the national steering committee and is contributing to policies in this space.

The panellists encouraged anyone interested in innovating in the sustainability space to just start. CIH hub also plans to help connect innovators in this space to relevant networks and opportunities.

You can catch the conversation from our Facebook live here

An opportunity to apply for posted during the discussion:

Upcoming WEEE centre conference:

Note: we lost audio in the recording in minute 15, you can fast-track to minute 16 to carry on with the conversation.

Stay tuned for more updates from CIH!

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