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30831Electronic rubbish

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  • Dennis Newson
    Dec 19 11:14 AM
      I have just read a fascinating article about a dedicated (illegal)  dump, the biggest in the world, for the universe's  electronic rubbish -  Agbogbloshie in Ghana, West Africa.

      Sorry not to have the time to translate this longish article, but will give a reference for those that can understand German, and a few highlights.

      19th. December, 2013  Die Zeit No. 52  Wirtschaft page 21
      Was am Ende übrig bleibt by Jana Gioia Baurmann

      Also online (an audio version, I think):


      "...." indicates my translation - text with no inverted commas, my connecting, summarizing sentences.


      "  "Hell", say those that do not live here.
      "The best place in the world",  says 18-year-old Sherrif, sitting astride a  computer monitor."

       A local priest at an international conference on Waste Disposal  in Accra prays: " "  Dear God, please help us with the rubbish.." "

      The point is a small community of people make a living out of sorting and re-using what the world throws away.

      "At the moment they are sorting through in  Agbogbloshie what  were Xmas presents in the industrial world 10 years ago."

      " A recent study from UNO's StEP - 'Solving the  E-Waste Problem' - calculated that last year, world-wide, there were  50 million tonnes of electronic waste...That is  7 kilos per person...It is estimated that in 2017 it will increase to a third more......"

      "The figures for Germany are  1,6 tonnes a year [1.6 million?] of which only 640,000 tonnes are legally recycled.. the rest lands up dumped illegally, or, also illegally, shipped off to countries like Ghana."

      "The roads to  Agbogbloshie (" According to a report from the Swiss Green Cross  Agbogbloshie is on the list of the world's 10 most polluted places, along with places like Tschernobyl..") are plastered with Tin,  Cadmium,  polychlorinated Biphenyl, Antimon, Dioxinen .. and much more.... which sound as poisonous as they are... and are substances that harm the brain, the nervous system, affect growth and behaviour and can cause cancer..."


      Unaware of or ignoring the threat to health, the irony is that many local people see the dump as a marvel, " a treasure" , " Development Aid. "  
      An agent for selling waste by the name of Kleinhauer states: "People make money recycling waste... The people in  Agbogbloshie  have enormous expert knowledge and efficient structures. The practical skills and  the wealth of ideas are enormous. From the economic point of view this must be acknowledged." 

      But there is sad news for the people of  Agbogbloshie.   World-wide there is a shortage of raw material. Industrial countries have turned their attention to waste, especially electronic waste. According to Bitcom (Germany)... " in Germany alone 85 million mobile phones are lying unused in drawers. If you calculate what quantities of  raw material are out of circulation as a result  you get the following figures: 4.25 tonnes of gold, 42.5 tonnes of silver, 2,700 tonnes of copper, more than 1,600 tonnes of  aluminium  and 148 tonnes of tin. Incidentally - 4 to 5 million old mobile phones are recycled."

      [I cannot resist quoting the claim that in Ghana, with a population of  25 million inhabitants - the number of registered mobile phones is : 27 million.]

      By February at the latest, an  EEC resolution will become law in Germany, namely that all used , exported devices originating from the EEC must have stuck on them on an A4-sized notice: "Still functions." Without that declaration the object in question must remain in Germany. 

      A spokesman from an organisation in Germany: "Secondary raw material and its disposal e.V "   [!] says: " We have no natural resources here, only waste.  The raw materials must remain in Germany."


      Dennis Newson
      Formerly : University of Osnabrueck, GERMANY

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