A Taskforce to Obliterate the Poverty vs. Poison Choice for eWaste Workers in Ghana

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Image of Agbogbloshie from David Fedele’s award-winning film, E-Wasteland

eWaste workers across Ghana feel they have a choice: suffer the poverty of joblessness or face the poison of informal ewaste processing. This awful choice is partly driven by the informal nature of the sector. It is time for the Government of Ghana to step up with a policy to compel the ewaste processing industry to protect worker and community health. A strong policy to protect health will encourage more sustainable growth for the bourgeoning industry and will ensure more Ghanaians reap the benefits of industrial growth. And a strong policy begins with an inclusive taskforce.

eWaste and Livelihoods: Processing of ewaste includes collection, repair, refurbishment, recycle and disposal management. The industry makes a substantial contribution to Ghanaian livelihoods – it is estimated that the industry employs almost 1% of the Ghanaian population, with workers earning US$70-285/month. The ewaste industry is projected to continue growing with annual increases in e-waste generation of 5–10% (Ghana EPA, 2015).

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Google Maps Image of Agbogbloshie capturing proximity of informal ewaste processing to civic buildings

 

 

eWaste and Health: Research based in Agbogbloshie (the epicenter of Ghana’s ewaste industry), reveals that the risk of exposure to toxic chemicals is very high for surrounding communities. This risk is amplified by the fact that ewaste processing is collocated with an active market and other civic buildings. And the risks for workers – including children – are even higher. A case-control study collected urine and blood samples that demonstrated that ewaste workers suffer measureable adverse health outcomes as a result of exposure to heavy metals in their occupation.

 

Avoiding Poverty and Poison: There are successful pilot programs – like the eWaste Recycling Center in Agbogbloshie – that demonstrate that it is possible to reap the financial benefits while avoiding the health costs of ewaste processing. And there are some policy efforts to scale-up healthy operations (see EPA’s proposed bill). The next step to implementing a strong policy is to establish an inclusive taskforce – with representation from ewaste processors (both formal and informal), relevant nonprofits and perhaps international electronics producers – to advise on acceptable and effective policy options.

Together, we can make ewaste processing work for all Ghanaians.

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One Response to “A Taskforce to Obliterate the Poverty vs. Poison Choice for eWaste Workers in Ghana”

  1. MegWalkerinDC Says:

    Please note: Sometimes the link to Ghana EPA’s presentation is down. If you have trouble accessing the link, please look at this link to an older version of the presentation: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-05/documents/ghana_2.pdf

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