Last update:
2020-05-27

Hazardous e-waste recycling in Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana

The slum of Agbogbloshie is the world’s largest e-waste dump. While pollution in land, air, waters and bodies has reached dramatic levels, the work of thousands of informal recyclers in dismantling and repairing electronics remains largely unacknowledged.


Description:

Located in the heart of Accra, Ghana, the area of Agbogbloshie has achieved notoriety as one of the most polluted slums in the world by hosting the perhaps largest informal electronic waste dump in the world. In this area the urban poor of Accra have been spending years dismantling, recovering, weighing and reselling parts and metals extracted from the scrapped devices and from the heaps of electronic waste. [1][3][4]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Hazardous e-waste recycling in Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana
Country:Ghana
State or province:Greater Accra Region
Location of conflict:Accra
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Urban development conflicts
E-waste and other waste import zones
Specific commodities:E-waste
Domestic municipal waste
Recycled Metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Agbogbloshie is an old neighborhood in Central Accra that has become an internationally known hotspot of e-waste recycling. A large informal settlement called Old Fadama, lies adjacent to Agbogbloshie, just a few hundred meters southeast of the central waste dump where a considerable portion of recycling practices occur. While Agbogbloshie and Old Fadama are technically separated by Abose-Okai Road, they function as an extended community (the names are often used imprecisely and interchangeably) and together comprise one of Ghana’s largest urban slums. Early settlers arrived to this area in 1981; it has since attracted economic migrants from various parts of the country (typically northern Ghana) who seek employment thanks its low cost of living, including the cheapest rents in the city and, later, the presence of the e-waste landfill. Based on a research conducted in 2009, the roughly 0.4 km2 area of Agbogbloshie was home to 79,684 individuals, of which approximately 4500–6000 and perhaps another 1500 indirectly founded livelihood opportunities. More generally, Ghana’s e-waste activities sustain the livelihoods of at least 200,000 people nationwide and generate US$105–268 million annually. This amount, in 2009, represented 280,000 metric tons of e-waste that entered Ghana, of which only 1% were processed through a formal facility. The share of working electronic goods found inside a typical e-waste shipment generally is about between 25% and 60%, depending by the formal or informal status of the importers that negotiate deals with manufacturers and distributers [3] [5].

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Level of Investment:US$105–268 million
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:200,000 individuals
Start of the conflict:01/01/2005
Company names or state enterprises:Environment Waste Controls - other companies are involved and come from the United States of America and European Union, clients include ASDA, Tesco, Barclays, the NHS and Network Rail
PC Disposals
Micro Traders and Disposals
Sanak Ventures
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology
Ministry of Communications
Ministry of Justice
International and Finance InstitutionsGerman Association for International Cooperation (GIZ) (GIZ) from Germany
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:League of Environmental Journalists, Ghana, http://lejghana.org/contact, Greater Accra Recyclers Association, Green Advocacy Ghana, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), http://www.eia-international.org/, Greenpeace International, www.greenpeaceinternational.org.uk, http://greenadgh.com/

International non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are beginning to fund and implement new pilot projects aiming to increase formal e-waste recycling. Pure Earth [http://www.pureearth.org/] (with funding from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization) and the Global Alliance for Health and Pollution [http://www.gahp.net/] opened an e-waste recycling center in 2015 with automated wire stripping units [9]

WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing) [https://www.wiego.org/]
Agbobloshie Makerspace Place Project
IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network)
Basel Action Network
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Wastepickers, recyclers
Local scientists/professionals
Local journalists
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Global warming, Noise pollution, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Accidents
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other Health impacts, Malnutrition, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (undecided)
Negotiated alternative solution
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of alternatives:-Environmental Investigation Agency calls for better enforcement of existing legislation against e-waste in Ghana and Africa generally
-EIA calls for the UK government to continue funding the Environment Agency in order to continue intelligence-led enforcement of companies, conduct a full review of the Producer Compliance Scheme and ensure that recycling facilities have the infrastructure to recycle, tighten procedures for authorizing treatment facilities and contractors. It also suggests the construction of recycling facilities in the developing world (for more, see the EIA comprehensive report)
-Author Kwei Quartey suggests that NGOs can offer carpentry training courses to provide alternative sources of income for children, but finding employment afterward remains a challenge.
-Greenpeace calls on electronics companies to ban toxic chemicals from their products
-Green Advocacy Ghana provided 8 environmentally friendly machines to e-recyclers in Ghana to extract copper without burning. Scrap dealers want the government to support these efforts.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The EU has created new legislation to collect and recycle 45 tonnes of e-waste starting in 2016 and the Ghanaian government said it would create a bill to ban the import of e-waste. But thousands of people in the market have no other alternative income and depend on the scrapyard for a living. The e-waste business is also lucrative for large organized scrap dealers, many of whom are Nigerian, Togolese, Chinese, Indian and Lebanese.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Responsible Electronics Recycling Act, 2011 (USA)

No laws to regulate e-waste dumping in Ghana

EU law also prohibits e-waste exports to non-OECD countries

EU new legislation is an extension of the 2003 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive.

Basel convention (1989) prohibits the dumping of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries, but the US is not party to the convention.
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

PBS. Interactive Map. The Global Trade in Electronic Waste.
[click to view]

New York Times. A Global Graveyard for Dead Computers in Ghana.
[click to view]

Otend-Ababio, Martin. E-Waste. An Emerging Challenge to Solid Waste Management in Ghana. International Development Planning Review. Vol 32, No, 2. Liverpool University Press (2010).
[click to view]

[3] Kurt Daum, Justin Stoler, Richard J. Grant, Toward a More Sustainable Trajectory for E-Waste Policy: A Review of a Decade of E-Waste Research in Accra, Ghana, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 2017, 14, 135
[click to view]

[2] Kevin McElvaney, Agbogbloshie: the world's largest e-waste dump – in pictures, The Guardian, 27 february 2014
[click to view]

[1] Jacopo Ottaviani, E-waste Republic, Spiegel Online, 2015
[click to view]

[6] Baldé, C.P., Wang, F., Kuehr, R., Huisman, J. (2015), The global e-waste monitor – 2014, United Nations University, IAS – SCYCLE, Bonn, Germany.
[click to view]

[7] Srigboh, R. K., Basu, N., Stephens, J., Asampong, E., Perkins, M., Neitzel, R. L., & Fobil, J. (2016). Multiple elemental exposures amongst workers at the Agbogbloshie electronic waste (e-waste) site in Ghana. Chemosphere, 164, 68-74
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[9] Pure Earth, E-Waste Recycling – Agbogbloshie, Ghana
[click to view]

[5] MARI SHIBATA, Inside the World's Biggest E-Waste Dump, Jun 11 2015, Motherboard
[click to view]

[4] Isaac Kaledzi, Ghana: Germany Supports E-Waste Disposal in Ghana, 19 MARCH 2017, Deutsche Welle
[click to view]

[8] Nele Goutier, E-waste in Ghana: where death is the price of living another day, 7th August 2014, Ecologist
[click to view]

[11] Yeung, P. (2019): The Toxic Effects of Electronic Waste in Accra, Ghana. Citylab, 29.05.2019.
[click to view]

[12] Citi Newsroom (2019): Gov’t to construct US$43 million landfill facilities at Abokobi and Agbogbloshie. 05.12.2019. (Online, last accessed: 01.05.2020)
[click to view]

[10] Stowell, A. (2019): How potential of massive e-waste dump in Ghana can be harnessed. The Conversation, 03.09.2019.
[click to view]

Tech Graffiti: The Terrible Cost of Ghanas Electronic Waste Dump.
[click to view]

Al Jazeera. EU Moves to Clean Up E-Waste. (July 14, 2012).
[click to view]

PBS. Drowning in Electronics. Where the Law Stands on E-Waste.
[click to view]

BBC One. Panorama. Track My Trash. (May 16, 2011).
[click to view]

New York Times. A Global Graveyard for Dead Computers in Ghana.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Carla Petricca, Zahra Moloo, Max Stoisser
Last update27/05/2020
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