Reducing electronic waste with Wasteless: an app for recycling

Technology is great — until we decide we do not need it anymore and it ends up in the trash. These trashed phones, laptops, and tablets are called electronic waste, and it is a major issue worldwide. That includes in Peneloppe Ghandour’s home country of Lebanon.

E-waste is not only clogging up our landfills, but is also bad for the environment. When not disposed of properly, these items release toxins that contaminate soil and water supplies. Not only is e-waste dangerous environmentally, but throwing out old technology also means we are ending the life of many devices which could be repaired and resold.

To reduce the problem of e-waste in Lebanon, Peneloppe and four other young social innovators are building a mobile application called Wasteless. That app uses a phone’s geolocation to connect a person with electronic waste to the project’s nearest electronics retail partner. These retailers will have a collection bin in their store where people can safely dispose of their e-waste. People who drop off their e-waste will get discounts on future purchases from that shop. This creates a model that is beneficial for customers, retailers, and the environment.  

The retailers will be trained to properly dismantle the e-waste and take the parts that are useful. These can then be incorporated into other repaired devices. Harmful parts of the e-waste will then be separated and sent elsewhere to be processed.

Wasteless across Lebanon

Wasteless’ founders live in three different parts of Lebanon, meaning they did market research in their own home regions. “The team is also working with several non-governmental organizations to raise awareness about e-waste in schools. Once children get these lessons they return home and teach their parents,” Peneloppe says, adding that schools have been very collaborative.

The team is also working with several non-governmental organizations to raise awareness about e-waste in schools. Once children get these lessons they return home and teach their parents.

Peneloppe and the Wasteless team have encountered a few challenges during their startup experience. One is that there are very few recent statistics around e-waste in Lebanon, and the team was not able to discover exactly how many electronic objects come into the country each month or year.

Another challenge is that a large contributor to e-waste is the government itself. “A lot of official institutions have loads of electronic waste, but because of privacy issues you are not allowed to dispose of it without a sign off from someone,” Peneloppe says.

Social innovation as a side business

Peneloppe and her co-founders are still working at their full-time teaching jobs while launching Wasteless. Running a social enterprise as a side business is common for many social entrepreneurs as they prepare to launch and scale.

Says Peneloppe on advice for other social innovators: “It is important to meet in person. It’s not enough to do Hangout calls. When you meet in person you can progress faster, and it is easier to divide the work and organize things. You really have to make your project the priority.

At DOT we’re excited to bring you inspiring stories that highlight the impact of daring young social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurship and social innovation is an ongoing journey, so we invite you to follow along with Peneloppe by following her on Twitter at @pennylopi.

This #DOTYouth Spotlight was developed as a part of DOT’s 2017 Unconference in Kenya, supported by the Mastercard Foundation and the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada.

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