Africa ClimAccelerator Start-Up Spotlight: Wastezon

A near-fatal accident at a landfill sparked a passion to reduce waste for Wastezon founders Ghislain Irakoze and Jacqueline Mukarukundo. Irakoze and his best friend were carrying out an environmental assessment for a school project when they were nearly buried by an avalanche of waste. 

“When I saw how close my friend came to dying from the heap of garbage, I decided to do something about this mounting problem. I set out to find solutions that utilise technology in order to ensure efficiency nd innovative processes that can reduce waste in the environment,” said Irakoze.

Rwanda generates 7,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, despite being one of only 13 African countries that have passed national legislation regarding e-waste regulation. A steady rise in sales of electronics and increasing usage of information and communications technology has contributed to an e-waste epidemic. 

Founded in 2018, Wastezon works to virtually connect users, producers and recyclers via a dedicated app. Users earn money from recycling electronics instead of throwing them away. These items range from phones, electric fans, microwaves, computers, fridges, blenders, shavers and much more. The items are then refurbished and can be sold back on the market.

“Our app works by enabling a user to take a picture of the item they want to get rid of and find a buyer. The company that wants to buy the item then gets a 10 per cent commission for every kilogram of e-waste material sold via the app. Recycling industries are charged a subscription fee while households earn an average $10 per month from the sale of e-scraps. Our app fosters transparency and makes the whole process easy and convenient for all parties,” added Irakoze.

The app also features a traceability function to solve any tracking issues and offers transparency by regulating the pricing. The e-waste detector function assists end-users with uploading the waste materials while various agents assist in manually sorting the e-waste at the source.

“We have a smooth logistics process that is facilitated by the use of GPS. This helps buyers to locate the waste products and guide our logistics partners in the delivery and collection of waste material. From waste to cash, Wastezon is creating an e-waste free zone and making the earth a safe place,” he added.

In Rwanda, the company has benefitted over 1,800 households, 150 “e-scrappers”, or individuals, and at least three recycling industries. It has also facilitated the recycling of over 580 tonnes of e-waste through its app.

In East Africa, Wastezon targets over 10 recycling industries (with a capacity of recycling a total of 20,000 tonnes of waste per annum), over 5.=,000 electronic repairers (with a capacity of handling over 35 tonnes of waste per annum), and over 35.000 e-scrappers.

“We target to have at least 4,000 active users in Rwanda by 2022, expand to Tanzania by 2023 and attract at least 1,000 active users in the first year of operation. In Rwanda, we will have 10,000 active users by 2024 as well as expand to Kenya where we target to get 2,000 active users in the first year of operation,” said the CEO.

Wastezon was one of 15 start-ups selected to participate in the Africa ClimAccelerator, the first pan-African accelerator focused on scaling the most promising climate-focused innovations. The six-month programme was delivered by partner organisations GrowthAfrica and the Carbon Trust, supported by the Climate-KIC International Foundation and funded by the German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH (‘GIZ’) exclusively on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (‘BMZ’).

An original version of this article was published here on 19 April.