Annually, the world produces as much as 50 million tons of electronic and electrical waste far more than all of the commercial airlines ever made. Based on the United Nations Environment Program’s report, only 20% of this is formally recycled.
This has made electronic waste pollution one of the biggest environmental problems affecting different parts of the world, especially Africa.
The UN’s Global E-waste Monitor 2020, has it that Africa generated about 2.9 million waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2019.
Added to the waste produced by Africans are millions of tons of electronic waste illegally exported to several African countries by European and American countries. These enter the continent under the guise of the “second-hand equipment” label.
Whether locally generated or imported, the proliferation of e-waste poses a real danger to both human health and the environment given that Africa lacks policies and structures to manage and recycle WEEE.
Nigeria, described as an attractive destination for waste exporters, sadly has no formal recycling sector for the safe management of e-waste. On average, about 500,000 tons of electronic and electrical equipment get dumped in workshops, open spaces, water sources, and landfills every month.
To help address this problem, Dozie Igweilo, Founder of Quadloop, through a waste-to-value approach, is building sustainable systems and solar lanterns out of e-waste.
A startup addressing a twofold problem
Co-founded by Dozie Igweilo in 2016, Quadloop is a Nigerian social enterprise that offers hardware devices, solar-powered lamps, and gas monitoring systems.
Going by its vision statement, the startup wants to be Nigeria’s foremost sustainability enterprise that is tackling energy poverty in sub-Saharan Africa by utilizing electronic and plastic waste using a close loop circular economy model.
Lack of access to energy in Nigeria has led many rural and low-income households to adopt the use of dirty fuels in powering their homes. This contributes to carbon emission and other respiratory diseases associated with air pollution.
It is for this reason and more that Quadloop was borne to address the problems of waste and energy poverty.
“We are looking at solving a problem that has to do with energy distribution in rural and Peri-urban areas as well as the problem of electronic and plastic waste, having seen that old electronics is causing so much menace in the environment.
We are looking at ways to harness the waste materials in terms of electronic and plastic to build our products“, says Igweilo, Co-founder of Quadloop.
After researching ways to use electronic hardware to solve this environmental problem, Igweilo came up with his first solution called Bliss in 2017.
According to him, Bliss Solar Lamp is an eco-friendly lamp that provides rural and low-income communities with clean energy.
Having great standby power, efficient for use in absence of an electric power source, Bliss uses circuit LED batteries to give people access to electricity in the place of kerosene lanterns and local lamps.
“In 2020, we started developing that particular product to see how we could come up with something more appealing to the market because we realized that users want to have more than just lightning.
Since a lot of people depend on their phones for meetings or entertainment or other activities, we saw the need to embed a USB port to the product.
So, the newer version- ÌDùnnú- that we have now actually had a feature that allows the user to charge their phones, light up their rooms, shops, hospitals & small businesses”, he explained.
Turning garbage into value
Quadloop collects electronic wastes from companies, tests their durability after which they’re used to build solutions.
Describing the process of fashioning solar products out of e-waste, Igweilo stated, “The waste material that we leverage is the lithium-ion batteries.
To build a solar lantern system, there are some major components from batteries to LEDs, to the entire body, that are needed. These batteries are gotten from waste materials like old laptop batteries which we recycle and take through some processes.”
He also added that the recycled materials, i.e old batteries, are subjected to further testing to assess their internal resistance, make sure that they can still deliver enough energy to power smaller systems. For example, an old battery with some lifespan insufficient to power a laptop can be harnessed to build solar lamps.
Life as an entrepreneur is not without its challenges. Igweilo spoke about the highs and lows of his journey to combat environmental problems.
“From enclosure down to building a circuit to getting the raw materials even down from building electrical boxes, everything has been a struggle.
One of the things that make working with local companies or local partners really challenging is because many of them don’t keep to their terms before and after the business is done.
Even with the difficulties, we keep pushing our way through the challenges to come up with something great because at this point there is no going back”, he said.
Quadloop is ready to innovate ideas for a safer and cleaner environment through renewable energy and electronics in solving real-life problems in Nigeria.
E-waste not only destroys the environment but also human health, as it contains toxic substances. Recycling such parts into eco-friendly solutions like Quadloop will help reduce the impact on the environment while also solving the problem of electricity.
In August 2020, the startup received a $10,000 grant from the Nigeria Climate Innovation Center.
Featured Image: Dozie Igweilo, Co-founder of Quadloop, on Tech Trends