February 19, 2009

Nigeria: Toxic Dumping Ground For Electronic Waste

Nigeria has become a giant dumping ground for TVs, mobile phones and other potentially toxic electronic waste. These goods make their way to the country disguised as second-hand items from developed nations, environmental group Greenpeace reported Wednesday.

"Nigeria is just one of many destinations for the developed world's toxic e-waste," Greenpeace said in a statement.

The group's findings are based on an undercover operation it conducted in co-operation with Britain's Sky television. 

"Following a three-year undercover investigation, we've shown once again that electronic waste - like your old TV set - still isn't being responsibly recycled like it's supposed to be. Instead, e-waste is being disguised as second-hand goods and shipped off to Nigeria, where it is sold, scrapped or illegally dumped," the statement read.

The mission demonstrates how the failure of electronics firms to take responsibility for recycling their products is expanding the hazardous waste trade from Europe to the developing world.

"Nigeria, like Ghana, Pakistan, India and China, is just one of many destinations that Europe, the United States, Japan, South Korea and other developed countries are using as toxic e-waste dumping grounds. For years, we've been exposing the mountains of e-waste that show up on the doorstep of developing countries at the expense of people and the environment," Greenpeace said.

"The poorest people, in many cases children, are put to work breaking apart TVs, mobile phones, game consoles and other electronic items that arrive in their tons. With no safety measures, they are exposed to highly toxic chemicals, including mercury, which damages the brain; lead, which can damage reproductive systems; and cadmium, which causes kidney damage."

"Companies can stop this illegal toxic trade now by ensuring their goods are free from hazardous components," the group said.

"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," Martin Hojsik, Greenpeace international toxics campaigner, told AFP.

Greenpeace said it began the operation by fitting an irreparably broken TV with a tracking device and taking it to the United Kingdom's Hampshire County council for recycling.

"Instead of being safely dismantled in the UK or Europe, as required by law, the council's 'recycling' company BJ Electronics passed it on as 'second-hand goods' after which it ended up in Nigeria," Greenpeace said.

Other organizations have reached similar conclusions.  Some 500 containers with 400,000 second-hand computers are delivered each month to  Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city, according to a 2007 report by American NGO Basel Action Network.


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