Germany unveils new plan to help Ghana with e-waste disposal

The plan aims to protect both workers and the environment when dealing with electronic waste at Agbogbloshie, a major dumping site outside of Accra

The project aims to protect both workers and the environment. (K. Nietfeld)

The project aims to protect both workers and the environment. (K. Nietfeld)

Young men busy themselves extracting copper from the dumped electronics and other scrap materials so they can resell what the collect. With bare hands, they burn the electronics, which causes a thick black smoke. Though this is a necessity for their business, the smoke makes it difficult for people nearby to breathe.

Agbogbloshie is the hub of electronic waste (e-waste) in West Africa and most of the electronics dumped at the site are hazardous. The site is notorious for the dangerous manner in which electronic waste is collected and burned. The practice pollutes not only the atmosphere but also nearby bodies of water and is dangerous for the workers.

The German government announced this week a €20-million ($21.5-million) project it says will transform the electronic waste processing system in Accra. It calls for the building of an e-waste recycling facility where materials can be brought and sold and processed safely to the benefit of the local community. The plan was presented at a public event by the German Ambassador to Ghana, Christoph Retzlaff.

“The second component [of the plan] is a health station in Agbogbloshie to support people living there,” he added.

Global and local problem
The UN Environment Program (UNEP) reported in 2015 that 60 to 90%of the world’s electronic waste is illegally dumped. In 2014, an estimated 42-million tons of e-waste were generated. But according to UNEP, 85% of the e-waste dumped in Ghana and other parts of West Africa is produced in Ghana and West Africa.

The local group City Waste Management is already excited about the initiative and is positioning itself to make the best out of the project.

“We are grateful that the German embassy here in Ghana has come on board to do this with the Ghanaian private sector. We are looking forward to working with them,” said Wendy Ahiayibor, a representative of the company.

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