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A quick glimpse of Agbogbloshie, Ghana's notorious e-waste graveyard and one of the most toxic environments in the world

 

By Muntaka Chasant | 838 words | Reading time: 3 min

 

 

 Agbogbloshie

 

Young men burning electrical wires to recover copper at Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana/ September 2019 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant/atcmask.com


 

Agbogbloshie, Ghana

 

Several studies, including the works of Richard Grant (1) (2), and Jack Caravanos (3), have closely examined the informal "urban mining" of copper and other rare earth metals from waste electrical and electronic equipments (WEEE) at Agbogbloshie and their environmental and health implications for scrap workers and the city's population.

 

Agbogbloshie is located near the center of Accra, Ghana’s capital city.

 


What goes on inside the Agbogbloshie scrapyard from morning till night?

  

RELATED: Agbogbloshie, Ghana: An E-Waste Hell

  

As earth's native metals deplete, futurists are starting to point to "urban mining" as one of the ultimate frontiers in minerals exploitation. 

 

But while mechanical processes such as pyrometallurgy, hydrometallurgy, and biometallurgy are frequently used to recover precious and rare earth metals from e-waste in other parts of the world, young men at Agbogbloshie use crude methods (see photos & videos below) to remove plastic sheaths off copper wires, releasing a cocktail of highly toxic chemicals into the city's air, the land and the nearby Korle Lagoon. 

 

See also: Agbogbloshie, Ghana | Africa & World Population Statistics

 

Agbogbloshie is also Accra's largest open-air food market.

 

This is how the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations framed Agbogbloshie:

 

"Agbogbloshie is a toxic threat. The burning of e-waste releases toxic fumes that spread throughout the community, threatening city dwellers. The toxic chemical fumes released get into the food market and get inside the soil throughout the area when it rains. Indeed, high levels of toxins have been discovered in soil and food samples, as these chemicals stay in the food chain." - FAO, 2016.

 


Why is Agbogbloshie Rated Among the Worst Polluted places on Earth?

 

Pure Earth and Green Cross Switzerland (2013) (4) rated Agbogbloshie among the world’s top ten most toxic environments, along with places such as Chernobyl, the 1986 nuclear accident site in Ukraine, and Dzerzhinsk, Russia’s cold war-era chemical weapons manufacturing city, often described as the most chemically polluted city in the world.

 

 Agbogbloshie

 

A young man breaking apart old television sets with a stone to recover aluminium at Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana/ August 2019 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant/atcmask.com


 

Scavengers roam through the streets of Accra by foot every day with handcarts, picking electrical wires and e-waste, sometimes from households, where they pay a small fee in exchange for old and unused electronics and wires.

 

See also: Pictures: The Rwandan Genocide

 

The collectors resell these wires to intermediaries (not always), who also resell them to scrap dealers inside the Agbogbloshie scrapyard, and elsewhere.

 

The wires and e-waste are then turned over to the burners (as pictured below) to use crude methods to recover the copper inside.

 

You can see in the photo (immediate photo below) and the videos further below that they also increasingly attempt to recover copper from refrigerator coils, alternators, armature and some auto parts.

 Agbogbloshie

 

A 'burner boy' is getting ready to openly burn a mixture of armature and other objects with copper imbedded in them at Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana/ August 2019 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant/atcmask.com


 

RELATED: Agbogbloshie and Air Pollution in Accra, Ghana

 

This has emerged as a major livelihood strategy in many developing countries, including Ghana.

 

The ''urban mined' copper are resold and exported into the global reprocessing system, where they are used in newer products.

 

Another serious toxicity issue at Agbogbloshie is the unsafe dismantling of e-waste (such as cathode-ray tube computer monitors and other old electronics). This releases toxic chemicals such as cadmium, brominated flame retardants, lead and mercury into the soil.

 

 Agbogbloshie E-Waste

 

Dismantled computer parts at Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana/ August 2019 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant/atcmask.com

 


 

 

More Agbogbloshie Photos

 

Some of the photos above and the additional below probably explain why Agbogbloshie is rated among the worst polluted places on earth.

 

See also: Air Pollution Killing More People in Ghana

 

 Tangled cables and wires Agbogbloshie Accra Ghana by Muntaka Chasant - ATCMASK.COM

Tangled cables and wires waiting to be harvested for copper. While some are imported, a lot of the wires burned for copper recovery at Agbogbloshie that I have observed are collected locally, from households, auto repair shops, electricians, etc. Thus a lot of these wires have very little to do with the illegal importation of computers, television and other e-waste into Ghana. So don't be too quick to start pointing fingers.

 

Agbogbloshie scrapyard, Accra, Ghana/ November 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant

   


  

See also: A Small Glimmer Of Hope Comes To Agbogbloshie

 


Agbogbloshie e-waste urban mining Accra Ghana by Muntaka Chasant - ATCMASK.COM

 

Agbogbloshie scrapyard, Accra, Ghana/ December 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant

 


Agbogbloshie e-waste urban mining Accra Ghana by Muntaka Chasant - ATCMASK.COM

 

Cooling down freshly harvested copper.

 

Agbogbloshie e-waste dump, Accra, Ghana/ November 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant

 


Agbogbloshie e-waste urban mining Accra Ghana by Muntaka Chasant - ATCMASK.COM

 

Freshly harvested copper. This was quickly carted away, weighted and sold.

 

Agbogbloshie e-waste dump, Accra, Ghana/ November 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant

 


Agbogbloshie e-waste urban mining Accra Ghana by Muntaka Chasant - ATCMASK.COM 

Picking up pieces of copper buried in the soil. Even the smallest pieces count here.

 

Agbogbloshie e-waste dump, Accra, Ghana/ November 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant

 


Ghana's Sodom and Gomorrah by Muntaka Chasant

The nearby settlement where most of the e-waste workers live with their families.

 

Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana/ 18 December 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant

 


 

- More than 90% of the scenes in the two videos below were captured with a cell phone -

 

 

Agbogbloshie, Ghana - A short film

 


 

 

"Urban mining" in Accra, Ghana - A short film


 

 

See also: "Urban mining" and Air Pollution in Accra, Ghana

 

See also: "A Quick Glimpse of Ghana's "Sodom and Gomorrah" Slum

 

Please leave your comments below, and let us know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources


 

1. Grant, R. (2016). The "Urban Mine" in Accra, Ghana. RCC Perspectives, (1), 21-30. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/26241341 (Retrieved December, 2018)

2. Grant, R., & Oteng-Ababio, M. (2016). The Global Transformation of Materials and the Emergence of Informal Urban Mining in Accra, Ghana. Africa Today, 62(4), 3-20. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/africatoday.62.4.01 (Retrieved December, 2018)

3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290519876_Exploratory_Health_Assessment_of_Chemical_Exposures_at_E-Waste_Recycling_and_Scrapyard_Facility_in_Ghana (Retrieved December, 2018)

4. http://www.worstpolluted.org/docs/TopTenThreats2013.pdf (Retrieved December, 2018)

 

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