Recycling has been a key part of the global fight against environmental degradation. However, a major weakness is the recycling protocol’s inability to change the fundamental component of the product that led to pollution in the first place. One of such recycling protocols is Upcycling. Upcycling is adding value to discarded products which transform them into commodities different from their original forms.

Agbogbloshie is a popular location in Accra where volumes of electronic waste materials are burnt daily against the backdrop of health and environment problems. But it is all not gloomy, because what most people call waste is infact a hidden treasure.

Matilda Payne, an Entrepreneur and Manageress of my Matilda Haute Couture discovered the treasure in upcycling e-waste about five years ago. She noted: “We have crossed the recycle line because when you recycle, is just recycling and not putting any value to it but upcycling is collecting materials in transition, then you turn them to useful things which are pricy. So we turn trash into treasures but we bring the trash back into your home in a very good form”.

Her company, Matilda Haute Couture caters for chandeliers, chairs, tables, wall sconces, all made up of materials in-transition like used car types, reclaimed wood, drift wood, coconut shells, sea shells  and e-waste.

Starting with five people, Matilda Payne now engages 75 people as and when their services are needed. She makes money while addressing environmental issues.

She said: “The filth, environmental degradation and improper disposal of harmful waste, especially e-waste and car types which is contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer. So climate change became our major target. So we wanted to mitigate climate change in our own small way.”

Vivain Ahiayibor of City waste Recycling who shared the same opinion as Matilda Payne, said her company encourages re-use of most e-waste fraction. She said: “The items coming from computer system units are used as centre pieces, washing machine doors as salad bowls, and using some of the electronic cables in making jewelries cup holders.”

She noted: “What we are trying to do is to try as much as possible to close the loop by using the triple R process to limit the pressure we put on nature.” The triple R process stands for re-use, re-cycle and reclaim. The scrap dealers at Agbogbloshie are not oblivious of upcycling. Within that neighbourhood are people who make coal pots, cooking pots, locally known in Akan as “Dadisan” and locally produced ladles. All these are derived from metals retrieved from cables from discarded electronics like T.V sets, microwave ovens, fridges, computers  among others. The process of getting out the metals by burning is the problem, giving Abogbloshie the tag of being one of the most polluted areas with the city of Accra.

To the Vice Chairman of Agbogbloshie Scrap Dealers Association, Abudul Kassim, their activities have helped households to dispose off their faulty electronic gadgets, else many neighbourhoods will become junk yards with piles of electronic waste. He said: “The scrap dealers retrieve copper, aluminium, and iron from the electronic wires and sell them to make a living.”  Through the e-waste business, Abdul Kassim said he has been able to educate some of his children to the university though he has no formal education.

One of Matilda Payne’s living room sets, which is made up of car tyres is called “Daakye Collection.” Daakye in Akan means, “The Future”, and to Matilda Panye and Vivian Ahiayibor, the future of e-waste and for that matter all waste is upcycling. Through that jobs are created, health issues are addressed while protecting the environment by using sustainable processes of retrieving valuable metals from e-waste.

By Joyce Gyekye

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