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Apr 2, 2024

Solar repair and E-waste management in Cox Bazar

By Lorena Muñoz Carmona

Cox's Kutupalong is the largest refugee settlement in the world, with a population of close to 1 million Rohingya refugees. The situation has become a protracted crisis, and climate-related disasters have increased in recent years. Understanding how BRIGHT can improve access to sustainable solar energy and durable repairs at Cox's has been on our priority list for a long time.

The Repair landcape

We wanted to understand better the existing landscape of repair initiatives in the settlement and how we could support them with our Repair Program.

We had the opportunity to visit the workshops where IOM Bangladesh, UNICEF/BRAC and UNHCR livelihoods are implementing different solar lamp repair initiatives. Each centre focusses on a different age group and includes members of both the host and the Rohingya communities.

Learning more about these repair initiatives provided valuable insights from our partners and other local stakeholders on the main challenges for repair (such as finding spare parts in the local market) and how BRIGHT can support overcoming them.

BRIGHT’S Repair Program training

During our visit to the different repair and learning centres we had the opportunity to train over 60 Rohingya and host communities members, and several distribution volunteers of the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society.

The training aimed at providing practical skills to the younger groups, showing the recommended steps and techniques to repair BRIGHT lamps. We engaged in a more complex technical discussion with the more advanced technicians, where we could dive deeper into the repair of specific parts of the lamp and get feedback on improving our repair platform.

Local E-waste management

E-waste remains a challenge in displacement settings, with only 1% reaching a formal recycler (NRC, Electronic Waste Management for Off-Grid Solar Solutions in Displacement Settings). We had the opportunity to visit the e-waste collection centre set up by UNCHR.

Some of our lamps reach the collection centre and are handled as e-waste. However, we discovered that many of them have not yet reached their end-of-life and that they can be repaired. We supported the volunteers working at the centre to identify and learn more about how to extend their useful life.

We also took several disposed lamps to one of our trainings, where the young groups of technicians worked together to repair them. This provided them with a practical example of the repair cases they could encounter during their work after the course.

End-user engagement

Beyond repair, a vital part of every field visit is spending time with our end-users and getting feedback on continuously improving our products. We conducted several interviews and learned about the beneficiaries’ routines around the lamp, as well as their wishes and critical repair needs.

Despite some of the challenges, there is enormous potential for solar e-waste and repair initiatives at Cox's, and we have taken with us many key lessons on how to keep scaling this initiative.

Read more about partnering with BRIGHT