by WELLINGTON TONI
HARARE, (ITNews Zimbabwe) – WHILE solar energy has shown vast potential to address Zimbabwe’s incessant power cuts, its increased adoption has somehow made it a double-edged sword with the environmental threat posed by improper disposal of solar batteries.
There is great concern over the underground water pollution caused by inappropriate disposal.
This presents the Southern Africa country with a ticking health time bomb.
It is in this context that a Harare-based company, Zonful Energy, has focused its resources on the disposal of solar batteries.
The company has partnered with the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) to develop a waste management project aimed at deploying appropriate management systems for the recovery, treatment, recycling and ultimate safe disposal of residues from solar-powered batteries.
Kenyan-based AECF has made available US$1 million in the Zimbabwean company to enable it to scale its distribution of solar products in the 16-million nation Southern African Development Community regional member state.
“The project hopes to tackle the huge environmental and health risks posed by increasing battery waste around the country. Zimbabwe is facing a huge challenge in e-waste management, although there are no defined statistics,” William Ponela, founder and chief executive officer of Zonful Energy, said.
He however said approximately, 50 000 batteries were disposed daily.
Chloride Zimbabwe recycles 755 of these batteries, most of them being lead acid batteries.
“This leaves the rest disposed directly into the environment,” Ponela denounced.
He said the improvement of collection, treatment and recycling of such waste at the end of its lifespan was essential to enhance resource efficiency and contribute to a circular economy.
Thus, Zonful Energy was committed to managing battery waster as it aligns its business model and services to e-waste management.
“We appreciate the support provided by AECF as we take the lead in honouring business commitment towards the protection of the environment as well as those of our customers,” Ponela said.
Since its inception in 2016, Zonful Energy has provided affordable solar energy solutions to several off-grid communities, bringing energy access to over 200 000 people in Zimbabwe.
“Off-grid solar products are delivering huge social impact to households, mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from traditional polluting lighting sources and supporting economic development in low-income countries,” Ponela said.
William Mulehi, AECF Senior Programmes Officer, e-waste management was an emerging issue in the off-grid sector.
The organisation will work with Zonful Energy to develop an e-waste strategy this month.
“As investors in this sector, we are championing the adopting e-waste management policy and frameworks as we aim to add value to our investees beyond capital,” Mulehi said.
Launched in 2008, AECF is a development institution that supports businesses to innovate, create jobs, leverage investments and markets in an effort to create resilience and sustainable incomes in rural and marginalised communities in Africa.