Technology Waste In Ghana

Submitted By dtint87
Words: 818
Pages: 4

Technology requires periodic upgrading; this is a widely accepted fact about today’s world. New computers, laptops, cell phones, and televisions all become antiquated within a certain period, and all manufacturers set lifespans for their products. Today’s consumer has gotten into the habit shedding their old technological shell in favor of a brand new one, pressured by marketing, their peers, or sometimes even on a whim. With that being said, where does all of this “technological waste” go? In addition to constantly upgrading, today’s consumer also takes for granted the process of “disposing” their old technology. Multitudes of companies offer to “recycle” used technology, but what exactly does this process entail? Since automated recycling processes are nearly impossible for specific and unique products, salvageable components must be picked out and processed manually, increasing labor and wage costs to domestic facilities. Therefore, these tasks are outsourced to countries with labors willing to do the dirty work. A little known fact about todays “e-waste” is that most of it gets sent to collections and dumps in Africa and Asia. Most “e-waste” is comingled with salvageable technology, and it is up to laborers to sort out what can be repaired, and what components can be scrapped for raw materials. The country of Ghana is one of the largest “e-waste” collection hubs in the entire world. In a 2011 report titled the “Ghana e-waste Country Assessment” it is stated that of the 215,000 tons of “e-waste” that was imported, 30% is new and 70% is used, and of that number, 15% is not salvageable and discarded. This report is in contrast to the unaccredited claims that 80% of unused waste is burned or disposed of unsafely. In Ghana and countries like it, there are no set standards for the regulation and disposal of “e-waste”, and this raises a number of ethical and safety issues pertaining to the health hazards and environmental risks of improper disposal.

There are numerous accounts of laborers, most of them children, who are given the task of sorting through this waste for salvageable scrap material. On a daily basis, children are exposed to hazardous materials such as lead, cadmium, and mercury from breaking open electronics equipment. Most of them are unaware of these risks, and continue to salvage undeterred in order to make about $2 a day from extracted copper. To make their tasks easier, some children toss large amounts of equipment into bonfires in order to melt the plastic and expose metals. These fires release a multitude of toxic fumes that are both harmful to them and the surrounding environment. However, despite all of these risks and combined with a genuine lack of knowledge, laborers scavenge these dumps day in and day out, hoping to find small pieces of scrap for their wage.

With dumping going on around the world, one may ask, who is responsible for the importation of all of this waste, and why can it not be contained domestically? The answer to that question cannot be obtained with ease, as it has proved very difficult of effectively trace “e-waste” back to its source. In a recent ABC news that chronicled a day of one of these child laborers, the worker was said to have “held up