Toxic waste dumping in the Gulf of Guinea amounts to environmental racism

On the outskirts of Accra there are huge electronic waste disposal sites, known locally as Sodoma and Gomorra. Photo by Maniglia Romano/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Toxic waste and electronic waste (e-waste) is generated from a wide range of industries – such as health, hydrocarbon or manufacturing – and can come in many forms, such as sludges or gas. E-waste is used electronic items that are nearing the end of their useful life, and are discarded or given to be recycled. If these types of waste aren’t properly discarded they can cause serious harm to human health and the environment.

This makes the proper disposal of toxic and e-waste expensive. Because of this a market has been created and some companies and independent waste brokers circumvent laws. They disguise toxic waste as unharmful and e-waste as reusable electronics. It is then exported to countries in West and Central Africa where it is often disposed of unethically at dump-sites.

In our recent paper, we show how Western companies and businesses (primarily those in Europe and the US) target countries in the Gulf of Guinea – we covered Nigeria, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire – as a dump for their toxic waste. This, despite the knowledge of the physiological and environmental effects of this waste.

These African countries do not have the facilities to enable the safe disposal of hazardous and toxic waste. And the true contents of the waste are almost always unknown to them. Exporters label unsalvageable electronic goods as reusable. This allows them to circumvent international laws which prohibit the transboundary transport of this waste. Read more…

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