New study highlights that off-grid solar waste is the primary driver of lead exposure and child brain poisoning in sub-Saharan Africa
30 September 2022
Christopher Kinally and Dr Alejandro Gallego Schmid (Tyndall Manchester) have published an article in the Journal of Energy for Sustainable Development about hazardous waste from off-grid solar products in sub-Saharan Africa.
The study was conducted with collaborators from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (The University of Manchester) and the University of La Rioja (Spain).
Efforts to increase electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa with the private market for off-grid solar products has resulted in a rapidly growing volume of highly toxic solar waste in the absence of formal waste management infrastructure. The study analyses the dynamics of sub-Saharan Africa's off-grid solar market, the drivers of off-grid solar waste, the environmental and health impactions of off-grid solar waste, the barriers to waste management, and potential circular economy solutions to address sub-Saharan Africa's off-grid solar waste flow. Crucially, the review highlights the current waste disposal practices for off-grid solar products to be a primary driver of lead exposure and child brain poisoning in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the authors describe profitable opportunities for circular economy solutions to address the toxic waste flow and promote sustainable development. The review is the first paper in a series investigating off-grid solar waste management in Malawi, where a field trip has just concluded, collecting original data to uncover informal waste management and recycling practices.
Unabated off-grid solar waste risks a new health epidemic (child brain poisoning) associated to lead exposure in sub-Saharan Africa.