As part of Green Crossroads' activities in Mauritius, we met Thomas Poelmans, Managing Director of Green Crossroads, to learn more about the launch on the island of the project " Green Mauritius ".
How was the collaboration between Green Crossroads and Mauritius born?
The collaboration was born with a call from our strategic partner SOFRECO. They had noticed that the French Development Agency (AFD) was seeking expertise to set up a management system for electrical and electronic waste (WEEE) in Mauritius. Since I supported the creation of 15 WEEE recycling companies in Africa and we are currently managing a similar project with SOFRECO in the DRC, the decision to respond was quickly made.
Is electrical and electronic waste a major problem in Mauritius?
It is important to understand the context of Mauritius. Mauritius is an island with 1.3 million inhabitants and produces about 16 thousand tons of electronic and electrical waste per year. This is a difficult quantity to manage, especially considering the remote location of the island. Initially, to manage their waste, they buried everything in landfills. But now the dumps are full, hence the urgency of finding alternatives. In addition, the government wants to develop more sustainable solutions, hence the demand for support to develop a management strategy for this waste.
It is the government that has taken the initiative to develop a WEEE recycling sector?
In fact, it is a collaboration between the public and private sectors. In Mauritius, the Chamber of Commerce has been mandated by the government to develop a management system for WEEE. I find this approach particularly interesting because it combines the strengths of both parties. I believe a lot in this model as "blueprint" for African countries. Incorporating economic operators into the implementation of the strategy is really key to achieving an effective system that is supported by all stakeholders.
How did you achieve this goal?
At first, our aim was to analyze the situation on the ground. And that's what we did.
Firstly, we looked at the quantities and types of electrical and electronic equipment put on the market such as washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers, computers, mobile phones, etc.
Then, an inventory and a diagnosis with regard to the current treatment methods was made. We wanted to know who works in the collection and management of waste. Is there already a recycling system in place for some equipment? How is this recycling done? What is the growth potential of these recycling companies? Do they have the capacity to handle much larger quantities and work in accordance with international standards?
Following this analysis, we were asked to develop a national strategy for Mauritius. The strategy is based on three components:
- The legislative aspect to be developed.
Since there was already a draft legislation in relation to the management of WEEE, we have refined this draft law. It includes, among other things, the introduction of a recycling contribution that is paid by consumers who purchase electrical or electronic equipment. When buying a laptop, the consumer will pay an amount, let say 25 cents per example, in addition to the purchase price. These 25 cents will be used to finance collection and recycling operations.
- The infrastructure aspect to be strengthened.
The analysis of recycling operators led us to present a strategic plan for the development of a recycling infrastructure in Mauritius (type of plant, capacity, equipment to be used, etc.). This is important for the take-back system when attributing certain amounts of waste to certain recyclers.
- The establishment of a take-back system able to manage all this.
The take-back system will be called "Green Mauritius" and will manage the supply chain of e-waste collection, transport, recycling and treatment.
This is where we currently are in the project. We are supporting the Mauritians in very concrete areas : How should the "Green Mauritius" organization be organized at the level of governance? Who should become a member and what are the membership rights and obligations? How should the contracts be awarded? How will the collection be organized?
We are also calculating the amount of this recycling contribution. How much will it cost? What will be the operating budget of "Green Mauritius"? What system will be in place to ensure traceability to know where the flow of materials and financial flow is? This in order to reassure that there are no, materials likely to disappear etc.
How will this collection of WEEE actually take place?
The first collection channel will be the shops and the merchants. Stores will operate at the same time as a sales point and a collection point allowing people to drop off their old electrical and electronic equipment. We'll introduce a financial incentive that allows distributors and retailers to cover their costs and promote offering incentives to their customers when e-waste is handed in whilst buying new equipment.
The second collection channel are the cities and districts, which will set up and manage a collection point, where people can get rid of their electrical and electronic waste. The third collection channel are the existing waste transfer stations. These stations will allow people who have a lot of waste and professional users to go and drop them there.
Finally, Green Mauritius will support NGOs that want to develop reuse activities. These centers make it possible to give a second life to the equipment in repairable condition and then to be sold at a reduced price.
So will it be Green Mauritius who will be responsible for managing the supply chain?
Yes, coordinating the supply chain will be a key task of Green Mauritius. If collection points are full, "Green Mauritius" will have to organize the transport from that collection point, to the recycling plant, so that the waste can be recycled. The management of financial flows, paying the collector, transporter and recycler, will also be the responsibility of Green Mauritius.
The management system is based on the principle of "extended producer responsibility". This principle stipulates that a company who puts a product on the market has an "extended" responsibility to ensure that the product is collected and recycled so that there are no adverse effects on the environment and the health. Producer-importers will work together and are represented in Green Mauritius. It is important to emphasize that it is therefore the private sector that takes up its environmental responsibility and works hand in hand with the government to reach the environmental objectives.
How did Green Crossroads specialize in this very specific trade?
I started working on Africa when I worked at Deloitte, where I helped to develop an advisory service (eg audits, risk & project management) for organizations active in emerging countries. After that, I was one of the people behind the launch of WorldLoop, an international organisation supporting e-waste recycling start-ups in emerging countries. As Project Director, I supported the creation of 15 recycling companies across Africa. So I already had that expertise.
With Green Crossroads, we expanded my personal experience by including a network of experts and extending to multiple streams of materials. Let's not forget that this is not the first time we have ever done such a project. We have carried out a similar project on a national WEEE management strategy in the DRC. However we also have a lot of experience on similar assignments with other materials, such as recycling strategies for packaging waste in Cameroon, end-of-life vehicles in Benin, etc. We are lucky to have a great network both in the recycling sector and on the African continent that allows us to bring together the right people and the right expertise. We can handle most projects related to waste management on the African continent.
It is really a service offer that we want to extend to several countries. Our experience in these different projects and in different waste streams has allowed us to build a toolbox that can be easily used in other countries to support these countries in the development of waste management systems.
What is your hope about this project?
Our goal is developing efficient and economically efficient recycling systems in all emerging countries. I see that the private sector is ready to take up this challenge in more and more countries. So if we can help by creating the necessary framework conditions such as a legal framework for waste management and support local actors in setting up the system that should lead to a cleaner environment, a healthier planet and will in turn benefit humans, animals and nature as a whole. That is what ultimately drives us in this interesting line of work.