Global LEAP Awards
Efficiency for Access
6 min readMar 17, 2020


The Global LEAP Awards are an international competition to identify and promote the world’s best, most energy-efficient off-grid appliances. In 2019, the Global LEAP Awards launched the inaugural Solar E-Waste Challenge to identify innovations in solar e-waste management across sub-Saharan Africa. Through a rigorous evaluation process, the competition selected eight winners spanning five countries to implement projects in take-back and collection, consumer awareness, and product recycling & reuse. This blog series provides insights into each company’s unique challenges and opportunities.


“Through this Challenge we hope to share a scalable business model for solar battery second-life usage. We also hope to offer some guidance for other e-waste recyclers interested in developing plans to engage with the informal sector in a sustainable and scalable way.”

-Adrian Clews, Managing Director at Hinckley Nigeria

The Hinckley Recycling team at their warehouse in Ikeja, Lagos.

In the heart of sprawling Lagos, Hinckley Recycling is the first formally registered e-waste recycling facility in Nigeria. While Nigeria hosts one of the largest and fastest growing electronics markets on the continent, management of the growing masses of electronic waste has largely been left to the informal sector. Global LEAP Awards Solar E-Waste Challenge winner Hinckley Recycling is forging the way for the formal e-waste sector in the country, balancing bureaucratic challenges with competition from a massive, well-organized informal collector coalition, with an emphasis on batteries used in off-grid solar.

Hinckley Group began operations in Nigeria in 1998 as a telecommunications consultancy servicing the oil and gas industry. The company began shifting attention to IT services in the early 2000s, becoming the first HP service provider in Nigeria. When the company began acquiring high volumes of non-functional and end-of-life IT equipment, they began to explore e-waste management opportunities.

“Customers would come to get their IT products serviced, but if the quote for service was too high, they would abandon the products in my office as scrap and that’s how it all started. We started to look at implementation, regulation, governance and working policies on electronic waste in Nigeria,” explained Adrian Clews, Managing Director of Hinckley Group.

In 2011 Hinckley began coordinating e-waste regulation implementation through an alliance with HP and other manufacturers across Africa, and opened an operational recycling facility for e-waste in 2017, after years of groundwork with Nigerian regulating agencies and ministries.

E-waste recycling equates to 30% of the Hinckley’s total revenue. “We anticipate that will change and we hope it will become one of our main business units. We are dedicating extensive time, effort apart from finance, sweat and equity to try and make this work and become a sustainable business here,” said Clews.


One of Hinckley Recycling’s greatest challenges is coordinating efforts with the vast informal sector. Despite seemingly endless electronic waste in Lagos, Hinckley struggles to access enough e-waste to make their business model viable: “the volumes that we recycle are very low because we simply cannot compete with informal recyclers.”

Additionally, Hinckley must offer an incentive that is competitive with Asian buyers that dominate the Nigerian e-waste market. “Until we are able to pay the same amount for the material as some of the informal recyclers or exporters, it’s a major challenge.”

Instead of viewing the informal sector as competition, Hinckley is identifying strategies to engage and coordinate efforts with them: “We’ve been organizing training and sensitization programs, awareness campaigns, working directly with these informal collectors, bringing them to our facilities, issuing them with protective equipment, training them on the hazards of e-waste, and educating them on correct dismantling processes.” Hinckley works through the E-waste Collectors Association of Nigerian (ECAN) and are considering different mechanisms to engage: “We know where they are, where they operate, what kinds of volumes they are collecting. We did a program where we did medical check-ups and blood tests on some of the informal collectors to check if there is any elevated toxins in their blood.”

The Hinckley team with informal recyclers during a health and safety training with the E-waste Collectors Association of Nigeria (ECAN) in Lagos.


Through the Solar E-waste Challenge, Hinckley will map out the informal e-waste ecosystem in Lagos, host more health and safety trainings, and test out incentive schemes and mechanisms to formalize relationships through potential contracts and health insurance plans.

While primarily focusing on e-waste generated from on-grid products, solar e-waste represents a growing opportunity for Hinckley. “Solar is an obvious choice for households, businesses, and industry for daily power needs. We have seen a growing number of projects in Nigeria funding by the World Bank, USAID, and UK Aid, but there has not been much discussion around end-of-life solutions for this growing market, particularly batteries which pose the greatest risk to environmental health.”

Pay-as-you-go (PAYG) systems are becoming increasingly popular across Nigeria. One of the biggest PAYG distributors is Lumos, and through their partnership with the leading telecommunications company MTN, consumers can purchase Lumos solar home systems (SHS) and associated appliances at over 200 branches across the country.

Lumos systems usually operate with lithium-ion or ion phosphate batteries. In order to deal with the sizeable and growing volume of PAYG system batteries, Lumos approached Hinckley to process the batteries. Exporting batteries, particularly li-ion, can present a challenge because they are considered hazardous and complicated to ship abroad. These products are amber listed and require an Amber permit to be shipped abroad.

The Solar E-Waste Challenge Project

Hinckley sees the Global LEAP Awards Solar E-Waste Challenge as an opportunity to explore solar battery recycling and second-life use.

“We want to avoid shipping batteries outside of Nigeria because it is not financially sustainable, it is difficult to do, and many shippers do not want to touch batteries due to their volatility and hazards in transit. We wanted to find a solution to battery recycling within Nigeria.”

Hinckley found a sustainable and scalable solution that was already being implemented in China. The team traveled to China to learn more about the technology. “We were impressed because it was it was a cleaner, manual process which was much less dangerous for the people who operate it and better for the environment. The process produces less waste material in the battery recycling process.”

Bags of recycled batteries at the Hinckley Recycling facility in Lagos.

In addition to the battery recycling machine, as part of the Challenge, Hinckley is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to develop a battery laboratory in Lagos to test battery cells, redesign, rebuild battery packs, and create second-life products out of them. Hinckley is taking inspiration from second round Solar E-Waste Challenge winner Aceleron Energy in Kenya, who develop battery packs to charge mobile phones and create solar systems to power small appliances.

“Through this Challenge we hope to share a scalable business model for solar battery second-life usage. We also hope to offer some guidance for other e-waste recyclers interested in developing plans to engage with the informal sector in a sustainable and scalable way.”

Check out the Nigeria Country profile for more insights into the e-waste recycling ecosystem in-country. For more on the Global LEAP Awards Solar E-Waste Challenge, visit



Global LEAP Awards
Efficiency for Access

Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership | Identifying & promoting the world’s best, most energy efficient off-grid appliances