Garbage Out, Garbage In: How Europe’s E-Waste Problem Is a Burden on Africa

Garbage Out, Garbage In: How Europe’s E-Waste Problem Is a Burden on Africa

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ACCRA, GHANA – This story puts the spotlight on the dumping of e-waste, particularly discarded colling appliances by Europe’s e-waste exporters in Africa in contravention of EU’s law and the Basel Convention while port officials in Europe turn a blind eye to the shipment of these discarded appliances.

It shows how several e-waste recycling organizations in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom have previously been engaged in the illegal shipment of e-waste to countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania. Experts have described the illegal shipments, as “an EU waste management regime on the backs of the poor and vulnerable”.

The investigation also shows that  recent EU Guideline on the Transboundary Movement of WEEE led by Germany introduces a “Repairable Loophole” which risks undermining gains of the Basel Convention and threatens to, “guide unscrupulous traders to export all manner of hazardous broken or untested consumer electronics outside of the control procedures of the Basel Convention simply by making a claim of export for repair“.

The story reveals the negative impact that harmful refrigerants found in discarded cooling appliances have on climate change and the environment – having the capacity to warm the atmosphere thousands of times greater than carbon dioxide, and already accounting for around 10% of global CO2 emissions.

It also highlights how the Ghanaian government has made progress in dealing with the dumping of cooling appliances on its shores despite its failure to build a functioning recycling plant at Agbogbloshie – the ‘graveyard for Europe’s e-waste’ in Ghana after several years of promise.

The journalist Gideon Sarpong speaks to environmental experts, import and export representatives, government officials and the academia to understand what is at stake, how Europe’s e-waste problem has become a burden on many African countries; its impact on the climate and recent efforts led by Germany to undermine the Basel Convention and maintain the status quo of dumping of e-waste in developing countries.

This article was first published by the Journalism Fund on September 07, 2021.

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