Electronic Waste: Intoxicating Agbogbloshie

15.08.2016

At breathtaking speed, our world is being inundated with ever more sophisticated electronic equipment. Used devices hardly a year or two old, are replaced with increasing frequency, to be cashed in or be thoughtlessly dumped for the next much fancier gadget. Most “outdated” models are added to a recycling bubble already stressed at the seams. Considering that resources are scarce and thus valuable, this sort of rotation system is still unrivaled. Yet, have you ever wondered how – and above all – where, your discarded cell phone, laptop or PC may have ended up eventually? It is estimated that more than half of the electronic waste from, e.g., the United States, is shipped to countries fairly ignorant of environmental issues - and there it is successfully buried in oblivion. Like for instance in China, India or Ghana in West Africa. A young company in Boston, Mass., sets an example of how fruitful sensible recycling can be.

Where your old phone goes and why you should care

Please view this video to find out what happens to myriads of dumped devices. Chances are, that yours are amongst them. This clip has been produced by Gizmogul, a US company buying and selling used electronics. It has been started in 2010 by Cory, Barry and Stephen Schneider. Their aim: to create a niche electronic recycling company with a philanthropic attitude. Currently, every cell phone recycled with them helps build schools in developing nations and fund valuable afterschool programmes both domestically and abroad. http://gizmogul.com/about-us/

From garden Eden to living hell

The protagonist of this film is presently the world’s largest disposal for electronic (and other) waste. Agbogbloshie around the Korle Lagoon in Accra/Ghana was once a paradisiacal wetland boasting a rich and colourful bird population. Owing to the rough living conditions and rampant criminal activity prevailing today, the area’s nickname has become “Sodom and Gomorrah”. Tons of legal and illegal e-waste exported by industrialised nations are processed here. About 40,000 Ghanaians inhabit the area, many of them young children. Deprived of protective gear, they are searching for metals to sell, mainly by burning electronic debris and by dismantling the smoldering matter with their bare hands. Exposure to the aggressive toxic chemicals emitted means a health hazard especially for kids. Their life expectancy is unlikely to exceed three decades.

With funding newly found, the Ghanaian government started the Korle Lagoon Ecological Restoration Project (KLERP) to fight the „pollution problem by dredging the lagoon to improve drainage and flooding into the ocean.“ That was in 2000.

More detailed info and how your country is performing when it comes to shipping waste around the globe:
Basel Convention – www.basel.int

Header photo: Screen shot video.