The UN Environment Program reports that Western countries produce around 500 million tons of e-waste every year. In Europe, only 25 percent of this type of waste is effectively recycled, in the USA and Canada the percentage is closer to 20.
Four hundred containers of iPods, smartphones, flat screens, and desktops arrive in African ports every month, supposedly to reduce the digital divide, create jobs, and “help people.”
In reality, the inhabitants of dumps like Ghana’s Agbogbloshie (see photo) survive largely by burning the electronic devices to extract copper and other metals out of the plastic used in their manufacture. An investigation by Green Peace found that the burnt soil in Agbogbloshie contained high concentrations of lead, mercury, thallium, hydrogen cyanide and PVC.
source: German news magazine DER SPIEGEL; image: © 2010 Pieter Hugo, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana.