Unscrupulous British waste brokers and charities are dumping toxic electronic waste (e-waste) into developing countries, according to not-for-profit campaigning group Consumers International.
The group believes that some waste brokers and charities are illegally dumping millions of tonnes of dangerous waste on the developing world under the guise of exporting it for use in schools and hospitals, although they do not name any names. The problem is not just centred on Britain, European and US countries also dump e-waste on developing countries, especially west African countries like Ghana and Nigeria. Consumers International is calling for better policing of the ban on exports of e-waste, which can release lead, mercury and other dangerous chemicals.
Consumers International campaigner Luke Upchurch told MRW: It is against the law to export toxic e-waste to the developing world. More than six million tonnes of e-waste goes missing per year from Europe and large amounts of this are appearing in places such as Ghana and Nigeria, which makes a mockery of the whole process. One local monitor in Nigeria said that 500,000 of used PCs get sent in containers to Lagos every month. Only one in four is in working order.
Unscrupulous waste brokers and even some charities are taking some of these computers to these countries. However, you do get good services such as Computer Aid which recycle and re-use these computers within the law but others do not.
You are getting people sending unworkable waste to Africa. It then ends up in refuse dumps around Accra [capital of Ghana] filling up landfill and swamping villages.
The Environment Agency acknowledges that the dumping of e-waste on developing countries is a problem. It is not illegal to export genuine second hand working equipment, which are unlikely to be regarded as waste. Policy advisor Adrian Harding said that the Agency did not have the resources to check every consignment destined for re-use in the developing world but it was working towards an intelligence based system to catch out those who break the waste rules.
He said: The UK is not the main source of illegal equipment going to places such as Nigeria. But there is some equipment leaving here landing up in developing countries.
A bulk of the equipment comes from the United States but no doubt from Europe as well.
Dan Watch, a partner organisation of Consumers International has said that young children
in developing countries are burning the unworkable computers to extract valuable metals and inhaling toxic fumes. Dan Watch co-founder Benjamin Holst said: Traders say that they have agents in the UK and get a lot of equipment from the UK. We even saw a monitor from Westminster Council in there. Producers of electronics need to phase out the toxins within them and Governments should control export as well as they possibly can.
Image: Burning e-waste