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Domestic consumption of electronics, electrical items generates e-waste in West Africa – UN study

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E-waste in Ghana
E-waste in Ghana

A new UN study on e-waste in West Africa says domestic consumption of electronics and electrical items contributes to the rising tide of electronics waste in the sub-region.

According to the study titled Where are WEEE in Africa?, up to 85 percent of  the e-waste produced in West Africa comes from domestic consumption, however it adds that, “The e-waste problem in West Africa is further exacerbated by an ongoing stream of used equipment from industrialised countries, significant volumes of which prove unsuitable for re-use and contribute further to the amount of e-waste generated locally.”

This report is only confirming with data what has been known since the e-waste menace in the sub-region started gaining attention both locally and internationally. West African countries including Ghana, have no policies or laws on how to manage obsolete electronics and electrical items. And citizens of these countries have no idea what to do with or where to take their electronics or electrical items when they reach their end of life.

An assessment report released in March 2011 on the e-waste situation in Ghana commenting on the laws governing e-waste, said “there are a number of laws and regulations that have some relevance to the control and management of hazardous wastes, including e-waste, “but they do not address the dangers posed to humans and the environment from such wastes.”

Ghana also has unrestricted and unregulated import regime for second hand electronics and electrical items, the report established.

The report also established 171,000 tons of e-waste was found in Ghana.

The new UN report which was prepared by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and some partners covered five countries; Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria and Ghana and it says between 650,000 and 1,000,000 tonnes of domestic e-waste are generated each year, suggesting that it is necessary for these to be managed to protect human health and the environment in the region.

E-waste  contains heavy metal chemicals such as lead, cadmium, barium, mercury and arsenic which are dangerous both to humans and the environment.

The report also sheds light on current recycling practices and on socio-economic characteristics of the e-waste sector in West Africa and provides the quantitative data on the use, import and disposal of electronic and electrical equipment in the region.

Additionally, the report draws on the findings of national e-waste assessments carried out in the five countries from 2009 to 2011.

Commenting on the report, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary General Achim Steiner, said, “Effective management of the growing amount of e-waste generated in Africa and other parts of the world is an important part of the transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy.”

The report can be downloaded here.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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5 comments

  1. Is the UN trying to protect the developed countries who are simply dumping their toxic electronic waste in Ghana? Does UNEP think that that Africans whose country’s are being used as dumping grounds by the West are stupid? What the UNEP report is saying is that local demand for computers and TV sets is what is driving the illegal dumping of e-waste in places such as Ghana but this is not true they should get their facts right, Who in Ghana needs all the junk TVs and old non functioning computer?. The countries that are dumping their -E-waste in Ghana are simply sending them here for dumping purposes just to get rid of their unwanted poisons . This is criminal and UNEP should be chasing those countries and prosecuting them for violating the Basel convention, UNEP should stop sending out all these crooked foreign consultants and government officials in Africa to go and tell Africans what their problems are. we have enough intelligent people in Africa who know what the issues are. UNEP is useless. This UN study on e-waste in West Africa is flawed. The report should rather tell Germany US UK etc to stop dumping e-waste and also urge the US TO RATIFY THE BASEL CONVENTION WHICH FORBIDS THE TRANSFER OF HAZARDOUS WASTE TO OTHER COUNTRIES

  2. I find it strange this research offered no solution at all. After studying and understanding a problem, its on sensible to offer solutions else what use was the research.

    Our government should ensure our laws work.Electrical and electornic appliances which are above a certain age should not be allowed in this country. This law will require a government with balls to enforce.

    Ghanaians who reside and work in the West,usually bring these poisonous gadgets-junks.They bring used fridges,tv sets,microwave,etc. Government must ensure this does not happen.We cannot sacrifice our safety to a few.

  3. when the western countries create environmental problems with global implications they blame developing countries, then they send their own consultants pay them heavily to go to these african countries to study the phenomena. These consultants go to Africa speak with local people then they write a report twisting the whole story and also tell the world that they have “discovered” the problem We need leaders in government and civil society in Africa to stand up to these western hypocrites and challenge them to prove their case. Illegal E-waste exports is driven by sheer malice, crime, profits and racial tendencies -“Africans are stupid they cannot detect toxic waste so we can tell them we are bringing them donations”
    The next moment you see government officials on TV sheepishly accepting junk from these western “donors” .I am waiting to see how the government of these african countries mentioned in the report will react to the statement that domestic demand is what is driving e-waste dumping. As usual these reports are carefully planned and orchestrated, having told Africans that e-waste dumping is their fault, fellow Ghanaians, mark it on the wall, the next step is that these guys who wrote the report and their cronies will fly to Ghana to organise conferences and seminars with their own resource persons and some bribed local officials and tell local people and government of Ghana that now that we have discovered that it is your fault we are coming to teach you what to do to mitigate the impacts of e-waste dumping . But I tell you Ghanaians must resist these moves they are ill motivated if the westerners are serious about stopping e-waste dumping it must start in the ports of their countries , they should stop the containers that are being sent to Ghana with e-waste and they must tell America to sign the international treaties that aims to prevent toxic waste dumping. All these guys from EMPA, UNEP whatever are simply using these issues to create employment for themselves and also generate money to pay themselves- If you doubt all that I have said here just sit down quietly and think about the attitude of the western countries to Climate Change. We in India and Asia have seen so much of these tricks, now we tell these Europeans and American agencies and the UN to leave us alone, AFRICA SHINE YOUR EYES!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. According to the report “about 85 per cent of the e-waste
    produced in the region comes from domestic consumption” how did the researchers come by these figures. Can the EPA in Ghana confirm this?

  5. This study on e-waste is fit for the dustbin, it was funded by recyclers in Europe who are eager to divert attention from the fact that they are the ones behind the illegal exportation of e-waste from Europe to Ghana
    and other African countries. This is a calculated attempt to throw dust into the eyes of citizens of the african countries whose countries are being used as dumping grounds for the toxic waste of the Europeans. Don’t believe any research conducted on Africa by Europeans and Americans.