By Solar Solutions Sustainable Development Team, March 2020
Our overall philosophy
At Solar Solutions, we focus on sustainable technologies - products that can meet the needs of people, with as little environmental impact as possible. We care about the environment and want to minimise our ecological footprint, however, it is known that there are some components in solar products that can be hazardous to the environment, if not disposed of correctly.
While we currently do not have a way to recycle products in PNG, we are concerned about the issue and working to find ways to reduce any environmental harm (read on for more details on this). We believe we all have a responsibility to work on this important issue - us as a company, the government, our suppliers and our customers.
Various waste management companies deal with waste segregation and recycling globally, and some manufacturing companies even accept the products they manufacture, at the end of their useful life, for safe disposal and recycling. There are also associations that work with the private sector to encourage and support E-waste (waste which is generated from electronic goods at the end of their life) recycling. Some such electronic waste management associations in the world include; ISRI (the Institute of Recycling Industries), CAER (Coalition for American Electronics Recycling), EERA (European Electronics Recyclers Association) and EPRA (Electronic Products Recycling Association).
In PNG, there are several Port Moresby based companies, such as Total Waste Management TWM , PNG Environmental Services and Pasifika Eagle Chemicals Ltd that assist in recycling a range of solid and liquid wastes, including ferrous and non-ferrous metal, waste oil, paper & cardboard, PET plastic bottles and aluminium cans. However, a lot of waste still makes it to landfill or is burnt, including toxic wastes and e-waste. While many forms of waste can easily be segregated and recycled, e-waste involves a complex process that needs sophisticated machinery.
Papua New Guinea has no local recycling avenues or locations for these complex solar waste yet. As a sole distributor of the world’s quality verified solar energy products; SunKing and Barefoot in Papua New Guinea, Solar Solutions PNG are looking for innovative ways to address the solar waste challenge. We are on the search for potential waste management partner organisations that can offer waste support services, and assist in awareness raising around the collection and containment of the products we sell.
We are looking into different ways that we can better prepare for waste, within our business model. We start talking about waste management at the start of our projects, and try to find innovative ways to build in awareness and knowledge around e-waste, before they reach communities. One way we can work to ensure e-waste is safely recovered, is to build in an additional cost for the product that would cover the costs associated with collection (something already done by other organisations, see here). We are also in discussions about creating training modules to ensure end-users know the importance of supporting collection efforts. At the end of the day, we need to overcome logistical barriers to ensure that areas in rural PNG have a pathway to return their solar related e-waste.
In PNG, the main government body related to waste management is the Papua New Guinea Conservation and Environment Protection Authority (CEPA). CEPA has previously partnered with organisations like JICA, UNDP and SPREP to initiate waste management initiatives. At the moment CEPA has not put in place any Policy or Regulatory Framework that specifically addresses E-waste. The Environment Act and Policy only highlights best environmental management practices and solid waste management. Also, there is a regulation guideline compiled by CEPA for corporations for submission of application for an environmental permit to discharge waste (see more here).
The challenge is ongoing for CEPA to effectively regulate and enforce the existing Environment Policy and Act and, also put in place recycling processes that are in compliance with the International Environmental Standards (i.e. ISO 14001 Environmental Management, see more here). This requires good environmental governance and adaptive leadership at the political level to review and amend the existing environmental legislation.
A common approach to waste management that an individual can take, which is cited broadly is to, and in this order: “reduce, reuse, recycle”. The same can apply for solar products and e-waste - and you as an individual can take this approach. While recycling options in PNG are still being explored, a focus on reducing and reusing is really important!
First is to reduce the amount of product that will need to be disposed of in the future. This can be done by not buying unnecessarily solar products, by choosing the right products for the energy need that you have, and only buying ones that are high quality and expected to last - for example, those that meet Lighting Global quality standards. Next is to reuse any components that you can. It’s possible that when a system breaks, only a part of it is actually faulty. Replacing this faulty component could mean that the system is operational again.
If you know anything about recycling e-waste in PNG, please get in touch, as we would love to find responsible ways to manage our solar.