Monday, 2nd november 2020 | Environment
Marco Arezio - Consulente materie plastiche - Illegal E-Waste: in the Land of the Walking Dead

Some time ago we dealt with the problem of the landfill of electronic equipment waste in Palestine where, with methods dangerous for health and the environment, valuable raw materials are extracted for resale. Today we operate the world's largest e-waste landfill in Ghana.

Computers, cell phones, televisions, electric cables, washing machines, microwave ovens, MP3 players and all those products that contain valuable metals, despite international bans on exports of electronic waste , continue to flow into Ghana at a rate of 40,000 tons per year.

But how do all these products get to the Agbogbloshie landfill?

All electronic equipment is sold by rich countries under the heading "used" or "to be repaired" , a wording that avoids classifying the object as a waste.

Controls at the ports of departure and arrival are scarce in relation to the total number of containers that are handled every day and the port authorities cannot afford, with the control structure available, to pursue the planned increase in controls on individual shipments.

So in Ghana arrives, from all over the world, an abnormal mass of exhausted electronic equipment that ends up in landfills and gives work to slaves of e-waste, people who for 2/3 dollars a day, try to recover metals from electronic equipment using extraction methods, such as fire, solvents and water.

This activity creates widespread pollution of the land, air and groundwater, with terrible implications for the health of workers who remain daily exposed to the inhalation of poisonous substances that come from the combustion of waste, from the mixture with various chemical substances and from the contaminated diet they eat.

In fact, around the landfill lives an army of workers who also come from other African countries, attracted by the possibility of earning a few dollars for the their livelihood.

But the people who handle this waste are exposed to ischemic diseases, tumors, obstructive pulmonary diseases and respiratory infections, while the landfill continues his life fueled by the refuse of the modern world.

Everything that cannot be recycled in the Agblogbloshie landfill is burned creating toxic clouds that have classified the place among the 10 most polluted of the world.

The African continent is trying to oppose this deadly trade for its people and, through the Bamako Conference , is asking states that export this type of goods to consider any non-functioning appliance as waste and therefore not exportable.

Germany has started social projects through which it supplies machines for the separation of waste, in an environmentally friendly way, paying the extracted metal to its correct value, restoring dignity and support to workers who carry the waste to be processed.

But this is just a drop in the bucket.

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