Urgent Need for Global Policy on E-Waste Management
E-waste is said to be the fastest growing waste component of global waste that endangered environment. In spite of the health risks associated with waste picking, the business is booming across Africa and parts of Asia and attracting thousands of unemployment youth into the sector.
Few meters away from Korle Lagoon (source of water) in Accra-Ghana, a ghastly dark clouds smoke accompanied by tongues of wild flames emerged and spread across the sky of almost the entire area stood a young African boy, Alhassan Yakubu 19, an urban migrant stack in Nima slum.
Looking tattered and scrawny, Master Yakubu had just poured fuel on the collection of spoiled electronic gadgets and set them on fire.
These gadgets range from computers, Television sets, mobile phones, refrigerators, coil of unwholesome wires among other electronic devices.
On the other side of the dump-site is Kojo Appiah, 28, who is rummaging through waste and trash picking plastics and metals and packing them into a waiting wheel barrow. Like vultures, the two youngsters’ livelihoods now link directly to the dump sites (Bola Bola).
The two are part of gangs of unemployed youngsters who make their living through selling waste and plastics to waste and plastics dealers in Accra. The scrap dealers are mostly based in Tema, an industry hub of Ghana and established links in other parts of the country.
Rummaging through trash and waste, the scrap pickers have three most important raw materials in mind: copper wires, plastics and wrecked hard metals which are raw materials to recycle industry and in high demand. It be noted that waste pickers themselves do not enjoy good prices and a subjected to “commercial bullying” by scrape buyers who have established direct link with the recycle industries. Much of their extractive methods involved burning and break open some of the electronic gadgets such as TV sets, refrigerators, and computer monitors.
They tell me part of their business which involves burning to extract copper wires or steels though is unacceptable and environmentally risky they have no other option than to continue their activity because their livelihoods depended on it.
Waste picking business does not involved men alone but also children and women most of whom are slum inhabitants and fending for their living in hard ways. Children in this business are those unfortunate ones who are out of school and have to contribute to the survival of the entire family.
Like her counterpart city Lagos in Nigeria, Accra, currently hosts about two or more millions of migrant men and women hailed from the deprived areas of the Northern, Upper East, Upper West, and Central regions. According to L.L. Jawura, the influx of migrants from rural Ghana to urban cities in search for greener pastures was a case of policy failure.
The increasing “Kayaye” (Head porters) phenomenon is popular in Ghana and Nigeria and is associated to the lack of basic development infrastructure in parts of these countries. This forced the young and energetic men and women including children to migrate to urban centers to look for alternative livelihoods as a result they find themselves in this risky, unhygienic and unacceptable environmental practice working environment that expose them to social vices such as HIV/AIDS infections, armed robbery, petty stealing, drugs abuse and risk of being knock down by moving vehicles among other things.
The young girls are subjected to sexual harassment, rape, and domestic abuses in some wealthy persons homes where they are engaged to do menial household chores.
These abuses they encounter however force the migrants to move into waste picking business though dangerous, gives the practitioners some kind of freedom from abuses and molestation they experience in the hands of wealthy persons in the cities.
Waste picking and Kayaye is not a suitable job but the practitioners are compelled under circumstances to embrace it. Waste pickers maybe cleaning the streets of waste products their activities are said to be releasing lead and other chemical established to poses health and environmental risk to the land and water bodies intensifying pollutions. This also endangers animals species on land and in the water.
In spite of the health risks associated with waste picking, the business is booming across Africa and parts of Asia and attracting thousands of unemployment youth into the sector.
The increasing number of waste pickers is blamed on unemployment, lack of jobs, hunger and extreme poverty and governments failure to control the disposal of waste. The boom is also directly link to the unavailability of raw materials for steel, copper and endangered mining or extractive industry.
Africa played host to thousands of tons of e-waste and millions of tons of liquids wastes mainly from the developed nations. Most of these waste products find their ways into the water bodies and rivers polluting them in the process.
Managing environment and sanitation is a major development challenges not only in Africa but the world at large and e-waste dumped in the soils of the poor continents compounds the environmental and sanitation challenges facing city authorities in Africa and Asia.
E-waste is said to be the fastest growing waste component of global waste that endangered environment, (farmlands and water bodies).
According to www.triplepundit.com, most electronic items contain substances that are necessary for their proper operation, including lead, mercury, cadmium and brominated flame-retardants. As a result, disposal of such electronics must be carefully managed.
It said that though some manufacturers are taking responsibility for the end-of-life maintenance of their products, and have developed e-waste recycling programs for businesses and consumers to safely manage and dispose of their electronic waste others are still adamant knowing the implications of their activities to health and environment. To this category of companies profit making comes first other concerns are secondary.
This however calls for the global policy on e-waste management. Drafting global policy on e-waste will need the support and cooperation of manufacturers to helps drive proper e-waste disposal and management to maintain environmental standards to make the world a better for trans-generation.
This generation had placed prosperity and development as top priority and relegated environment management. Despite recycling cost it should be made toughest and enforceable global environmental policy to deal with it associated health and environmental risks.
- credit: Mike Anane