Refresh Your Waste Products into Something Beautiful

Waste Products

There has been substantial positive technological development in recent years that has improved our lives in one way or another. However, as we celebrate these contributions, we are faced with a subsequent problem: What do we do with our old or obsolete electronics?

Our homes and offices are filled with an assortment of electronics. This might be because we hope that one day they might be revived, or we consider it a treasure that we cannot let go of given the amount of money we paid for it.

Waste Products
While many wonder what to do with the technological waste at our disposal, a group of young Kenyan innovators have started a venture that uses it as raw material to make useful and sought-after products.

Started by two ambitious innovators in a home garage in 2013, E-Lab is a start-up with a mission to clean up the environment, as well as offer job opportunities to the growing number of unemployed youth in Kenya. University students and art-lovers Alex Mativo and Simon Mumo say they were inspired to start the venture by the availability of so much obsolete electronics in their homes.

Electronic waste is now Kenya’s fastest growing waste component. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), over 17 000 tons of electronic waste is generated in the east African country every year. This includes personal computers, refrigerators and mobile phones.

Waste Products

The duo and their team collect electronic waste from households and electronic shops in Athi River, a growing urban centre a few kilometres from the capital, Nairobi. After collection, the electronics are taken to their warehouse where they are cleaned and sorted. What’s left is then transformed into various art pieces as per their clients’ needs, including jewellery and sculptures.

Joan Wanjiru, designer of E-lab’s fashion products, says they use everything from capacitors, to transistors and copper wire, incorporating colourful beads to give them a touch of diversity. According to Joan, they sell their creations to various models, corporates who promote conservation of the environment, as well as individual ladies who want to look good.

Their efforts have been gaining recognition. Earlier this year, Alex was among 21 young Africans to receive the prestigious Queen’s Young Leaders Award for his role in working to solve the electronic waste problem while creating jobs for young people.

Soon, E-Lab aims to expand their operations:

“We see ourselves as the company that will absolve all that e-waste, and also create employment opportunities for people in Nairobi and all over Africa,” says Alex.

Maurice Oniang'o is a versatile award-winning Kenyan Journalist. He has produced for highly rated Television programs such as Project Green, an incisive environmental show and Tazama, a half-hour documentary series, which were broadcast on Kenya Television Network (KTN). He has a keen interest in stories about environment, corruption, technology, security, health, education, human rights and governance. He has won various awards including: Environmental Reporter TV- AJEA, Thomson Foundation Young Journalist of the Year (FPA), among others. He is a Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa Fellow (Financial Journalism), Africa Uncensored Investigate 101 Fellow and a member of Journalists for Transparency (J4T), a collective of journalist and storytellers that seek to explore issues of transparency and corruption around the globe. Maurice is currently a Freelance Documentary Filmmaker and Writer based in Nairobi, Kenya.