Here’s a Wired article I saw today on the effects of e-waste in Ghana.
I’ve been there and photographed to wider area and the ‘burner boys’. The actual story is, as always, a lot more complex. Yes, they still burn electronic waste, but the numbers doing it are much lower than a decade ago, when Greenpeace first reported this. Yes, there is waste from all over the world that eventually ends up there, but the majority is from e-waste from devices used locally in Ghana. The ‘local devices’ are largely from goods imported secondhand or as donations. Some arrive broken, simply because they were badly packaged (I went to the port to ask the local repairers), but most ends up being repaired and used locally until it reaches the end of life. Then the real problem begins because there is no real controlled recycling facilities. Although a German regional development agency was trying to create a local capability. And to be fair, we hardly have any decent recycling here in the UK or EU (we dont know where 75% of it even ends up). I seem to recall an article, maybe by Adam Minter (?), that calculated that a very small fraction of global or EH e-waste actually ends up here. The government also has other reasons to want to move people away from Agbogbloshie and that’s tied in to the complex situation. Given its proximity to downtown Accra, it is prime building land and they would love to move the people on, they’ve tried and failed before.
The real issues are: 1 - we generate too much e-waste; 2 - we (UK & EU) still do not have proper e-waste management ourselves; 3 - we happily ‘export’ waste, but do not provide the capability for others to deal with it.
Thanks for the insight Mark. Interesting to hear it from somebody that’s been there!
Some years ago I tried to organise delivery of laboratory equipment to Ghana after visiting the University in Accra. I contacted Universities here and they were will to give redundant equipment. Although the UK Government on the media said they would give assistance when I contacted the then Prime minister and asked for shipping to Ghana, the answer was “not interested”