Each year thousands of hazardous waste is illegally dumped in far off countries and remote locations. One of these locations is Agbogbloshie, a vast field in the middle of Ghana. It has become the world’s biggest electronic waste dump in just 20 years time.
The dump began because small vendors displaced of unwanted materials in the once swampy field on their way out of town. Over time container loads of trash and electronic waste arrived from all over the country. These loads contained piles of heavy machinery, broken electronics such as PCs, and other large equipment that is expensive to dispose of. Soon after, local scavengers and businessmen became attracted to this area looking to make a profit on some of the valuable components within the heaps of waste.
The massive collection of electronic waste presents significant hazards of leaking of lead, mercury, arsenic, zinc, and flame-retardants. Beyond the environmental hazards of the waste, local businessmen have employed boys and young men to collect valuable materials found within these mounds. They scavenge the mounds of electronic waste and illegal trash dumping looking for precious elements that can be melted down and resold. The physical risks presented include cuts, scrapes, bruises, broken limbs, and the occasional burn from random explosions. The children are happy to earn an income regardless of the potential hazards.
In recognition for the need to more properly dispose of materials, a large team of founders and investors had introduced a pilot recycling facility that uses automated machinery to strip or pull apart wires of various sizes. Workers currently burn the cabling to extract the wiring and this new facility offers a safer, non-toxic approach to doing this job. The project is building trust with the community that it will supply jobs instead of take them away.