A near fatal accident at a landfill birthed a passion to reduce waste for Wastezon founders Ghislain Irakoze and Jacqueline Mukarukundo. Mr. Irakoze and his best friend were carrying out an environmental assessment for a school project when a heap of garbage tipped over and almost killed his friend.
“When I saw how close my friend came to dying from the heap of garbage, I decided to do something about this mounting problem. I set out to find solutions that utilise technology in order to ensure efficiency, innovative processes and aim for less waste in the environment,” said Mr. Irakoze.
Rwanda leads in Africa in e-waste recycling and produces over 10,000 tonnes of e-waste annually. This is attributed to a steady rise in sales of electronics and use of ICT in most spheres of life.
Wastezon was officially started in 2018. The company works to virtually connect users, producers and recyclers in order to achieve a waste-free world. Their app allows companies to connect with users who want to get rid of their electronic products. Users earn money from recycling these products instead of throwing them away. These items range from phones, electric fans, microwaves, computers, fridges, blenders, shavers and many more. The companies reuse and remake the items they buy back from users, which reduces their carbon footprint.
When e-waste is exposed to heat, toxic chemicals are released into the air, damaging the atmosphere, which is one of the biggest environmental impacts of e-waste. Those toxic materials seep into the ground, affecting both land and sea animals. Electronic waste can also contribute to air pollution.
“Our app works by enabling a user to take a picture of the item they want to get rid of and find a buyer. The company that wants to buy the item then gets a 10% commission for every kilogram of e-waste material sold via the app. Recycling industries are charged a subscription fee while households earn an average $10 dollars per month from the sale of e-scraps. Our app fosters transparency and makes the whole process easy and convenient for all parties,” added Mr. Irakoze.
The app also provides unique, innovative value offerings, such as traceability to solve the tracking issues, and transparency by assisting in pricing the e-waste. It also has an e-waste detector that assists the end-users to sort and upload the waste materials while various agents assist in manually sorting the e-waste at the source.
“We have a smooth logistics process that is facilitated by the use of GPS. This helps buyers to locate the waste products and guide our logistics partners in the delivery and collection of waste material. From waste to cash, Wastezon is creating an e-waste free zone and making the earth a safe place,” he added.
In Rwanda, the company has benefitted over 1,800 households, 150 e-scappers and at least 3 recycling industries. It has also facilitated the recycling of over 580 tonnes of e-waste through its app.
In East Africa, Wastezon targets over 10 recycling industries (with a capacity of recycling a total of 20,000 tonnes of waste per annum), over 5,000 electronic repairers (with a capacity of handling over 35 tonnes of waste per annum), and over 35,000 e-scrappers.
“We target to have at least 4,000 active users in Rwanda by 2022, expand to Tanzania by 2023 and attract at least 1,000 active users in the first year of operation. In Rwanda, we will have 10,000 active users by 2024 as well as expand to Kenya where we target to get 2,000 active users in the first year of operation,” said the CEO.