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New solar light that reduces electronic and plastic waste

You may have already read about the Light Library coming to Nyakantingi Primary School in Rufunsa, Zambia.

Families from a village where most people are unable to afford a candle will be able to take a solar light home for as little as one pence per day, much like checking a book out from a traditional library.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh will be providing 25 solar lights for this innovative project built from recycled plastics and ethically sourced electronic components. The lights- known as SolarWhat?! – reduces solar waste by being:

  • Designed in a way so the solar light can easily be taken apart and repaired with non-specialist tools
  • Powered by a mobile phone battery widely available across Africa that can be charged by a range of solar units.

John Keane, CEO of SolarAid says,

“We’re excited about this partnership with the University of Edinburgh. Making these new lights available to school children, as part of our Light Library programme in Zambia, is an important step towards a new generation of solar solutions designed to last beyond the life of the original rechargeable battery, reducing levels of e-waste.”

Back in 2014, SolarAid and the University of Edinburgh began a partnership that looked at recycling and repairing solar lights in Africa to have more of an impact on the Sustainable Development Goals. Dr Jamie Cross, Project Lead from Edinburgh University’s School of Social and Political Science, who led the research and helped design the device, said,

“When solar-powered devices can be taken apart and repaired locally, they reduce electronic waste and provide clean energy for longer. Repair should be as important as sunlight in a responsible and sustainable solar industry.”

More than 25 million solar devices were thrown away in 2017, according to a report by the World Bank’s Lighting Global Programme, and it is our hope to catalyse the use of sustainable and responsible solar lights throughout Africa.

See how you can support work like this here.