UN group calls for regulation of e-waste in Ghana

Young people recycling e-waste at Agbogbloshie.
Young people recycling e-waste at Agbogbloshie.

Ghana has been urged to put adequate measures in place to address the harmful effect from electronic waste recycling.

According to a group of UN experts which visited the country, it has received information on the harmful effects of the large-scale recycling of electronics waste taking place in the Agbogbloshie area.

The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights in a report July 17, 2013, said the Agbogbloshie area, populated mainly by the poorest in society and economic migrants from the North and other areas, has become heavily contaminated from burning and disposal of toxic waste, with harmful effects on the health of the communities.

The Working Group noted that much of the activity takes place illegally or in a grey zone, but that residents without other economic options are heavily dependent on the trade.

“The government of Ghana should also ensure that this sector is adequately regulated locally,” they said in the report.

They added “…there is a need to ensure that local communities that depend on recycling electronics for survival receive sufficient support and alternative means of livelihood to discontinue this harmful trade.”

The Working Group indicated that the e-waste emanates largely from other countries in the Americas, Europe and Asia, and often enters Ghana marked as second-hand goods for resale.

The group said the home countries of electronics recyclers have an important role to play in ensuring that standards are effectively enforced, and in setting out clearly the expectation that companies in their markets respect human rights throughout their global activities.

Meanwhile, an assessment report of the e-waste situation in Ghana published in May 2011 found that 171,000 tons of e-waste reaches the country’s informal recycling sector, with only 0.2% reaching the formal recycling sector.

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.

The report was written by Green Ad, a Ghanaian NGO, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Ghana and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA).

E-waste is known to contain hazardous chemicals including lead and cadmium. These chemicals are not bio-degradable – meaning when they enter the food chain or blood stream, they do not breakdown, and therefore cause some cancers including leukemia.

The only known scientific examination that has been conducted at Agbogbloshie was done by the environmental activist group, Greenpeace. In 2008, the Greenpeace did a lab test of the soil and water at Agbogbloshie, the results showed that the soil in the area contained toxic chemicals at levels a hundred times more than WHO allowable limits.

Early October 2012, the then Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, Ms. Sherry Ayitey now Health Minister, told ghanabusinessnews.com that the law to regulate e-waste in Ghana was to be reviewed by Parliament in the middle of that month. However, that has not been done.

By Ekow Quandzie

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.