Vehicles are normally fitted with a device that reduces emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. Countries enact regulations to ensure these devices known as a catalytic converter are regularly serviced to reduced exhaust emissions.
According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, transport sector accounts for at least 22 percent of all global carbon dioxide emissions. In Africa, 40 percent of these emissions are accredited to the transport industry.
“Ideally the car’s electronic control unit (ECU) is programed so that when a vehicle having these devices is not meeting the set requirement, then the ECU should prompt you to service your emission control device so that you comply with the set regulations for the emissions” says Phillip Odhiambo, an engineering supervisor at Isuzu East Africa.
Kenya lacks these emission regulations. Hence, it has been allowing car owners to remove these devices on their exhaust pipes. Removing them is contributing to air pollution as the majority of second-hand cars in Nairobi drive without any emission control device emitting soot freely.
Simonet Kenya limited employs about 120 agents to collect catalytic converters and other assorted e-waste within east Africa.
The company exports to Japan where the minerals are mined on their behalf before selling them in the market.
“We mine palladium, rhodium from the catalytic. Since in Africa, apart from South Africa which is coming up with a plant, we do not have a plant licensed to recycle e-waste hence we have to export them to japan for mining. These chemicals are very toxic both for humans and the environment” says Anthony Siameto one of Simonet Kenya limited director.
Kenya has committed to reduce her carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. In addition to a policy to curb vehicles emissions, the government has adopted cleaner fuels with a lower Sulphur content.
However, Phillip believes the country also needs to address the scrapping of old cars.
“We are coming up with an automotive policy and emissions is key in it so we need to also as a county have a conversation with ourselves on how to manage the end of life of vehicles because we have gotten so many old vehicles on the road which increases pollution but no one wants to address how to scrap the vehicles”
If dumped in landfills, these metals would be toxic to the environment. With a kilogram bought at 3000 Kenya shillings, listen to how the catalytic converters made of rare metals are removed and recycled, benefiting Nairobi youths economically.