Wednesday, June 9, 2010

UK concludes investigation of e-waste dumping in Ghana

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

The Environment Agency (EA) of the UK has completed an investigation into the dumping of electronics waste or e-waste into Ghana by some suspected UK recycling companies, has learned.

The investigation was initiated in 2008 following media reports that some recycling companies in the UK were collecting obsolete computers meant for recycling in the UK and dumping them into Ghana.

Following email enquiries by to the EA, an official, Scarlett Elworthy wrote this response, “Our officers have now completed their investigations and their findings are now with lawyers for consideration.”

But checks with Ghanaian government officials show that Ghanaian environment officials do not know about the investigation.

In a telephone interview with the Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ms. Sherry Ayitey, she told that she is not aware of the investigation.

British media reports which led to public outcry and forced the EA to initiate the investigation discovered discarded computers from the National Health Service (NHS), and some universities which were collected by recycling firms for proper disposal dumped in Ghana, at the Agbogbloshie scrap yard in Accra.

The Independent, a UK publication also published a report based on investigations it conducted which revealed that toxic wastes from the UK continue to be dumped in Ghana and Nigeria.

The report said tonnes of toxic waste collected from British municipal dumps are being sent illegally to Africa in flagrant breach of the country’s obligation to ensure its rapidly growing mountain of defunct televisions, computers and gadgets are disposed of safely.

Hundreds of thousands of discarded items, which under British law must be dismantled or recycled by specialist contractors, are being packaged into cargo containers and shipped to countries such as Nigeria and Ghana, where they are stripped of their raw metals by young men and children working on poisoned waste dumps, the report said.

Despite mounting evidence that the UK is a regular source of the e-waste that comes to Africa, particularly Ghana and Nigeria, the UK government admitted in September 2009 that it is unable to stop the practice “because of the exponential surge in volumes of incorrectly classified waste being exported,” according to the Computer Weekly.

Some of the damaged computers found at the Agbogbloshie dump site in Accra had NHS labels on them. Other PCs were found to have been the property of UK councils and universities, including Kent County Council, Southampton County Council, Salford University and Richmond upon Thames College.

It is known that 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste are generated in the world annually and a great amount of that ends up in developing countries including Ghana and Nigeria.

Britain is responsible for around 15 per cent of the EU’s total e-waste, which is growing three times faster than any other municipal waste stream.


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