Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mountains of electronic waste illegally dumped in Nigeria by developed countries

Electronic waste from Europe arrives in Nigeria. © Greenpeace / Kristian Buus

Instead of recycling hazardous electronic waste, countries such as the UK, US and Japan are illegally shipping it to developing countries such as Nigeria for disposal, a new investigation has revealed.

In Nigeria, locals, including children, break apart the electronics - such as television sets and mobile phones - and in doing so are exposed to highly toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead and cadmium. Some items are mended and reused, but many are simply abandoned in toxic waste dumps.

In the investigation, carried out by Greenpeace, Sky News and The Independent, a broken TV set was fitted with a tracking device and dropped off at a Hampshire County Council recycling centre. Instead of being safely dismantled and recycled, it was passed off as second-hand goods, bought by a London dealer and shipped to Lagos, Nigeria, where it ended up in an electronics market.

Under EU law, it is illegal to export broken electronic goods.

"Companies can stop this illegal toxic trade now by ensuring their goods are free from hazardous components," said Greenpeace International toxics campaigner Martin Hojsík.

"It is critical they take full responsibility for the safe recycling of their products and put an end to the growing e-waste dumps that are poisoning people and the environment across the developing world."

According to Greenpeace, e-waste is the fastest-growing source of waste, with up to 80 per cent of e-waste from Europe not being disposed of safely.

The Independent said that Hampshire County Council insisted that it only used dealers who exported functional equipment.

Read the full report from the Independent here.
View a slideshow of the investigation, and find out more about e-waste dumping here.

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