LONDON (IDN | GIN) – Digital dumping ground, world’s largest e-waste dump – whatever you call it, Agbogbloshie, a former wetland and suburb of Ghanaian capital Accra, is one the top ten “worst polluted” places on earth where tonnes of discarded electronics, refrigerators, microwaves and televisions, also known as e-waste, end up decomposing in a massive scrap heap.
"Mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic – these are the four most toxic substances [in the world], and they are found in e-waste residues in very large quantities," Atiemo Sampson, an environmental researcher at the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, who has conducted several studies of the Agbogbloshie site, said in an interview with the BBC.
Exposure to these toxins is known to cause a whole range of illnesses from cancers to heart disease and respiratory illnesses.
"The consequences are already quite apparent," says Sampson. "We are not waiting for 10 years or 20 years, the effects are already happening within the Ghanaian community."
Most of the items were imported from developed countries where recycling is either too expensive or prohibited by the NIMBY (not in my backyard) crowd who reject e-waste and its toxic chemicals which pollute the ground, water and atmosphere.
The United States is the only country in the world which does not ban exports of toxic discarded electronics.
Prompted by that large loophole, a toxic trade watchdog organisation based in Seattle in the United States conducted a two-year study that involved placing electronic GPS tracking devices into old hazardous items such as printers and computer monitors and then watching where they travelled across the globe.
“The results are in,” writes the Basel Action Network (BAN) in a new report. “Instead of being recycled locally, 65 (32.5%) of these items were exported overseas on container ships. Most of them went to Asia, and most were traded in likely violation of the laws of the importing countries.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing considerable backsliding in the electronics industry today compared to just a few years ago,” said BAN director Jim Puckett. “Toxic e-waste is flowing off our shores every day to substandard operations, harming people and the environment across the globe.
“Meanwhile, these exports deprive our own nation of green jobs and make it difficult for responsible electronics recyclers to compete and survive.”
BAN’s report, released May 9, and titled “Disconnect: Goodwill and Dell Exporting the Public’s E-waste to Developing Countries” is available on its website.
In a related development, the Africa Green Project cautioned Ghanaians to be wary of so-called philanthropists donating second-hand computers. A recent shipment to a school in the Eastern Region turned out to contain ‘junk gadgets’ – all not working. [IDN | INPS – 31 May 2016]
Photo: Ghana e-Waste
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