It’s a fact that the worlds more developed countries have been exporting their more dirty industries abroad, but exporting some of their most hazardous trash has not gotten the same attention. There has been a misconception that much of our televisions and computers are being safely recycled, when the fact is that many of them end up in impoverished areas of Ghana. This is not only causing significant health risks to the people there, but it is also creating immense environmental problems.
There are several thousand televisions or computers being dumped in this location every day. The working ones are normally resold for little money and the broken ones are sent to the dump site. Because of the severe poverty in the region, many are forced to pick through the dump site for copper wires. The problem is that they first need to remove the plastic coating. Giant clouds of black smoke can be seen over much of the region from the people burning the plastic off. These massive plumes contain an incredible amount of toxins, greenhouse gasses, and heavy metals which cause a variety of cancers.
Not only is this practice degrading to the environment, but it is also distracting Ghana from building infrastructure to advance their sluggish energy sector. Despite the fact that Ghana is said to have the best electricity access of any nation in Africa, the rate is still at only 60%. Collecting scrap copper by burning plastic is not only polluting the environment and compromising many resources such as water, but it is also killing the people.
An international agreement has made it illegal to ship this form of waste to developing countries without a permit, yet this has been occurring for over eight years. While the dumping of these products helps to create nearly 10,000 jobs, the negative impacts on health and the environment are irreversible. The Australian government has launched an investigation into the source of this illegal waste since they have been marked as one of the larger perpetrators. The question now is not how Ghana will keep this E-Waste out of their country, but how industrialized countries with the tools to stop it can prevent it from ever leaving.
To learn more about E-Waste and to watch a short film please click here.