Disabled spark new life in old tech

Disabled people at the Cape Town Association of the Physically Disabled in Bridgetown are being trained on how to dismantle, repair, and refurbish electronic waste.

Old appliances and gadgets are being saved from electronic junk heaps by disabled people at the Cape Town Association of the Physically Disabled in Bridgetown who are learning how to dismantle, repair, and refurbish them.

According to Ashley du Plooy, CEO of the E-waste Recycling Authority (ERA), more than 12 500 people globally participated in the International E-waste Day campaign on the weekend of October 14 and 15, when over 130 tons of electronic waste, or e-waste, were collected, including old cellphones, refrigerators, printers, fans and heaters for repair, re-use, or recycling through the non-profit company’s networks and infrastructure.

International E-waste Day takes place on October 14, every year and was first introduced in 2018 by the Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment Forum to make consumers aware of the need for e-waste recycling.

ERA is running a pilot programme at the Cape Town Association of the Physically Disabled in Bridgetown to train 30 people to dismantle, repair and refurbish electronic waste.

The trainees get a monthly stipend and there are plans for an intake of 30 more next year, according to Mr Du Plooy.

“It really shows how much electronic waste there is piling up in people’s homes,” he said, adding: “Something like this requires support to get started and to become a sustainable enterprise.”

One of the trainees, Faneezwa Kapa, who uses a wheelchair, said the programme gave her something beneficial to do.

“Before this programme, I was not doing anything; I was staying home. I’m now learning a lot of things that I never knew before.”

Another trainee, Wayne Jansen, 57, said: “A lot of companies don’t want to invest in people like me because of your age and because you are disabled. Here we’ve learnt that an appliance that is broken doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s broken – it can be fixed. So what we are learning to do here is to dismantle it, fix it again and it can give us more years’ shelf life.”