Africa, dumping ground for UK e-waste


Toxic tech waste poisoning Africa (image credit: Buus/Greenpeace)
African countries have become the dumping ground for electronic waste from UK companies. This was highlighted in the recent BBC3 programme, “Blood, Sweat & Luxuries: Gold and E-Waste”. The documentary alleges that E-waste from high profile UK institutions have made its way to Ghana as well as other countries in Africa, where locals were seen rummaging for electronic components to sell for scrap value.

This program has raised concerns about how organisations can dispose of unused electronic equipment in a safe and ethical manner.

“European laws exist to prevent such UK IT waste ever reaching countries such as Ghana in this way. But, as this programme has highlighted, these laws may not be controlling the recycling market as well as they could be, with some recycling providers operating in the UK transporting waste illegally rather than recovering or disposing of it correctly.” Comments Andy Howell, Group Recycling Manager at Stone Group, a UK computer hardware manufacturer and public sector specialist.

“I am bitterly disappointed and upset to see that IT hardware from highly reputable organisations has somehow made its way to rubbish sites on another continent, such as those shown in Ghana. I am certain that those organisations who were highlighted, had entered into an agreement with their recycling providers in good faith, fully trusting that the old hardware would either be recycled or that any working units would be deployed to countries like Ghana, or other African countries in desperate need of actual working IT equipment” continues Andy Howell.

Howell adds, “These UK public sector organisations and bodies have been let down badly by “cowboy suppliers” who have not taken adequate care to ensure that the systems being replaced will be responsibly recycled, and not left as e-waste in Africa. Not to mention the harm that such irresponsible behaviour is doing to the environment as a whole and specifically to the countries in which the waste is dumped.”

The Kenyan government recently proposed a ban on second-hand computers in a bid to curtail the negative impacts on the environment.
An official in the Information and Communications Ministry in Kenya , Bitange Ndemo, said “The organizations shipping in these used computers are being paid to get them out of those countries, but are disguising themselves as donors assisting Kenya’s schools. It is cheaper for companies in the developed world to pay these organizations to bring the computers here than destroy them”
A study by Eco Ethics International conducted in 2007 revealed that the number of imported second-hand computers doubled following the removal of VAT in the country.