It’s true what they say: One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. You wouldn’t believe where most of your discarded electronic goods end up. It so happens that Ghana is one of several African countries where your used or slightly damaged electronic items are sent, allegedly to be resold. The shipments arrive from the United States, Australia, Western Europe, and Asia.
There is an enormous dumping ground near Accra, Ghana called Agbogbloshie where most of these digital appliances are dismantled for scrap. The locals call the place Sodom and Gomorrah because of the irony of it all. It’s one of the most toxic and polluted places on the African continent. It feeds them while at the same time it endangers their health.
Many men, women, and children work at this dump disassembling the tons of computers, telephones, clocks, radios, televisions, CD players, speakers, and much more that are thrown there periodically. In some cases this job has become their only source of income and they have been doing it for years.
A fourteen-year-old boy tells how his father left him at the dumpsite when he was still a small boy. This means he never had the opportunity to go to school and this is the only life he knows. His father promised to return for him, but never did.
An alarming number of small children work at the dump. Many of them are orphaned but some of them work alongside their parents. Surprisingly, many of the children go to school and then go to the dump in the evenings. They get a few scraps to sell so they can have lunch money for school the following day. A person can make between $3 to $10 dollars per day from the metals gathered.
The process employed by those working there involves burning off plastic casing to uncover the metal components. As a result, extremely toxic chemicals are released into the environment in the form of smoke and ashes, both of which are easily inhaled.
One man recalls that he started working collecting scrap in 1991. Back then there were only about 15 workers. Now it’s close to 5,000. He states that collecting scrap is a good business because they supply iron to local companies that would otherwise not be able to get as much as they need.
The site runs without any health and safety regulations, although there are many laws in place that should keep the dumpsite from operating like that. People sleep, eat, and raise their cattle very close to the toxic mess and are exposed around the clock to substantial health risks. There are no official numbers regarding the amount of people who die from inhaling the toxins and no one registers the number of diseases caused by this ecological disaster.
But if this is a know fact, why is all this waste still being shipped to Ghana? Who is benefiting from this? Find out more now.