| November 9, 2015

We Take E-Waste Seriously


It all started in 2010. The below photo captures a big moment in Worldreader’s history: it was taken on the launch day of our first e-reading program, iREAD, in the Eastern region of Ghana.

iREAD students, sitting with their new e-readers, exchange a smile.

iREAD students, sitting with their new e-readers, exchange a smile.

Given that the average lifespan of an e-reader is of four years, you may be wondering: what becomes of these e-readers?

Typically loaded with over 200 e-books, every e-reader lives an impactful life with a long journey full of magical moments. From the day the e-reader arrives in the hands of a student, to the countless times the student spends reading words, pages and books, until the day the e-reader retires, the device enriches a student’s life and opens their eyes to a vast new world.

There are nearly 10,000 Worldreader e-readers functioning on a daily basis and enabling reading in Africa. To date, approximately 1,000 e-readers from our numerous e-reader projects have been retired due to malfunction or breakage issues.

While our mission focuses on delivering positive learning outcomes, we recognize the severity of e-waste problems and take our environmental responsibility seriously. As such, we are honored to have partnered with City Waste Recycling, a reputable e-waste management company in Ghana’s capital. As our first collaboration, City Waste Recycling is processing a batch of 1,000 broken e-readers.

City Waste Recycling Ghana

City Waste has a degassing unit in collaboration with the Ghana Energy commission. Gases extracted are also recycled.

City Waste Recycling began operations with recycling plants in Ghana in 1999 and expanded with an e-waste recycling pilot plant in 2010. They maintain an active role in the community with over 500 employees, many of whom are women. On touring their facilities, our Accra-based Operations Manager, Beatrice Ani-Asamoah, commented, “We are working with one of the best local e-waste management companies in Ghana. They are very open and have several precautions in place to ensure that devices get recycled properly and do not end up on the open market.”

So, how does the story of an e-reader end? They will first be dismantled, the metal parts will be transferred to a government facility for processing and the plastics will go through City Waste Recycling’s local melting process in Accra. The plastic melted will then eventually be turned into bottle caps, chairs, or other items, depending on their density and other physical properties. A child in one of our newer e-reading programs may very well be reading on one of these plastic chairs. The e-reader’s journey doesn’t quite end, it just takes on a new form.

The e-reader parts after the dismantling process.

The e-reader parts after the dismantling process.

We’d like to extend a big thank you to City Waste Recycling for contributing to the sustainability of Worldreader’s e-reading programs.

Interested in learning more about the work we do? Find out how Worldreader is bringing digital books to millions around the world.