European E-waste, Labeled 'Second-Hand,' Is Unloaded in Ghana


Photo credit: Greenpeace/Kate Davison

We've covered the extensive electronic waste, or e-waste, problems in China, India and Mexico in the past. Now Africa is emerging as a new favorite dumping ground for our aged electronic products, and the implications for human health are disturbing.

Greenpeace is reporting that items like computer monitors, hard drives, television sets and printers from the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany and South Korea are ending up in Africa dumps like the one in Ghana's capital, Accra. Though in nearly all European countries it is illegal to dump e-waste because it often contains toxins like lead and chlorinated dioxins, increasingly aid groups are encouraging Europeans to send their old equipment to developing countries to be reused.

But Greenpeace learned that devious electronics traders are buying usable and obsolete machines in bulk and sending them to Africa falsely and incorrectly labeled as "second hand." Traders told Greenpeace that to get a shipping container with a few working computers they must accept broken junk like old screens in the same container from European exporters.

In Accra, the obsolete items end up in dumps and are picked apart and then burned, releasing noxious fumes and chemicals."Some of the samples contained toxic metals including lead in quantities as much as 100 times above levels found in uncontaminated soil and sediment samples," a Greenpeace scientist said in a statement after taking samples at open-burning sites at the dump. Greenpeace added that the chemical contamination found at the sites in Ghana was similar to that previously documented by Greenpeace for e-waste open-burning sites in China and India.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) says that between 20 million and 50 million tons of e-waste is now generated annually, as consumers regularly upgrade and discard old machines. In the European Union, for example, up to 75 per cent of that waste is unaccounted for, according to Greenpeace. :: Via Telegraph, Yahoo News
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Tags: Africa | E-Waste | Pollution