The Scandal of Illegal E-Waste Dumping in Developing Countries

A BBC documentary was aired recently which exposed the illegal dumping of e-waste in developing countries like Ghana. The focus of the programme was one of the largest electronic waste dumps in the world in Accra, Ghana, which has been there since the 1990’s.

The site was formerly wetland and farmland, but now it’s merely a graveyard for unwanted electronics, like fridges, computers, and TVs.

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A dangerous occupation

Many poor people work on the dumps to make a meagre living. They burn the waste in order to salvage the precious metals they contain, such as copper, aluminium, and lead, which they then sell on. But burning the waste is bad news for the workers’ health, especially when you consider that they get paid pennies for what they recover.

The effects on health

Many people who work on the dumps die young because they inhale toxic fumes, which cause cancer and other serious health problems. The workers don’t tend to wear gloves or masks, as they don’t comprehend how dangerous the work is for their health.

As well as causing problems for workers, around 80,000 people live in a nearby slum, with no running water and no sewage system. Life expectancy is understandably short.

Illegal dumping of waste is a global issue

So where does all of this waste come from? Well, it’s shipped from all over the world, including from here in the UK. Much of it is shipped illegally, and there appears to be a considerable black market for electronics. The problem of e-waste is global, but you can do your bit at home to help tackle the problem.

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How to recycle your unwanted electronics after Christmas

Maybe you got the kids a tablet, console, or laptop for Christmas, or you got a shiny new gadget for yourself, which is all good, except what do you do with your old items? Do you put them away in a cupboard and forget about them, or do you put them in with your general waste? Neither are brilliant solutions to be honest, so here are some better ones:

What to do with your unwanted electronics

If your electronics are in good working order but you just don’t need them, why not offer them to family and friends, sell them on eBay or freecycle, or donate them to your local charity shop?

The British Heart Foundation will collect electronics for free, you just have to book a collection online.

Remember too that when you buy new electronics, some retailers will collect your old items when they deliver the new one, especially larger items like TVs and fridges.

How to recycle your old mobile phone

How many of you have at least one old mobile phone lying in a drawer somewhere? Most components in mobile phones are recyclable, so even if your mobile is broken, you can sell the parts on to make extra cash or you can simply give it to charity. Be sure to erase all of your personal data first though.

How to recycle old batteries

We throw away over 600 million batteries every year, and when you consider that it takes 50 times more energy to make a battery than you’ll get out of it, that equals a lot of wasted energy and resources. And don’t forget, they can’t go in with general waste as they contain hazardous materials.

But batteries don’t have to go to waste. Supermarkets and DIY stores often have battery collection points, and you can check on Recycle Now to see where your nearest collection points are. 

mobile phone recycling