Australia E-Waste Gets Illegally Dumped In Africa

We feel virtuous when we send our electronics to be recycled rather than just dumping them, but what guarantees do we have that they're actually disposed off responsibly? A report on SBS' Dateline suggests that some Australian TVs and other unwanted goods are being illegally dumped in Ghana rather than carefully recycled.

The problem is worse than simply creating huge landfill areas; impoverished locals burn the wiring to extract copper which they can sell, creating massive plumes of toxic smoke which affect the health of everyone in the region. The estimated cost of fully recycling some TVs is estimated in the story to be north of $1,000, which explains why the illegal trade flourishes. The report also notes that while Customs has stopped 15 shipments of illegal e-waste from leaving the country, no-one has been charged. Clearly, it's an area where more needs to be done.

Hit the link to watch the full story (or read a transcript if your office network blocks video).

E-Waste Hell [Dateline]


    Give me a break,..

    So the locals burn the debris to get at valuable metals and that is somehow someone else's fault?

    As if this is the biggest issue facing Africa?

    The guilt industry is getting way out of control.

      Yes lets not worry about whether we are destroying the lives of those we don't have to look, square in the face!

      No one said this was 'the biggest issue facing Africa', but it's definitely AN issue for people in Ghana. Should we ignore it because it's not 'the biggest issue'?!

      Also you realise that the 'debris' you mention is full of lead, mercury, cadmium, etc.

      Oh and the fact that Aussie 'debris' is ending up there is actually breaking international conventions that Australia is a signatory to.

      But of course I don't want to make you feel guilty... Sheesh.

        Please don't throw the word "signatory" around with arrogance.

        What matters most is whether any of the conventions you are alluding to have been ratified.

        Being a signatory to a convention is one of the many enforcement loopholes plaguing the UN.

        Lessons in public international law aside, the burning of eWaste goes deeper than ruining the lives of the people living in less developed economies. It is the most visible symptom of a consumerist culture that shuns or ignores knowledge of the inner workings of electronic products or repair know how.

        Have a look at

        It is a website dedicated to education and assisting consumers in repairing their own faulty products (and/or breaking warranties :>) whilst reducing global eWaste.

          Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

          Ratified by Australia in 1992.

          Regulates the movement of hazardous waste between countries - i.e. exporting hazardous waste to another country requires a permit (based on an agreement between the countries).

          Australia has no current permits to export hazardous waste to Ghana.

          Some further reading:

      EckyThump's right. No need to feel guilty if you can't see it.

      that is the stupidest comment I have ever heard,
      it may look like your doing them a deed but in fact not because this e-waste will impact their lives from deadly toxins.
      would you want this to happen to you???

    Hah,.. we buy the vast amount of our electronics at a vastly reduced rate because it's produced by people who are not being paid enough! Hence we accumulate a vast amount of waste, because the vast majority of what we buy is broken or out of date within a year, and then we wonder why it all ends up in a land fill in a country that can't afford to say no!! Hah hah haaaa, bloody hell! OK I'll get down off the box now! #]

    This story is EXACTLY the first 3 minutes of Futurama S06E03 (Attack of the Killer App). Kill me if I'm lying.

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