Replacing mobile phones, cameras, etc. in your hands for faster processing speed and updated operating experience, and constantly pursuing new electronic products under the slogan of “buying new and not buying old” has almost become the “pamper yourself” in contemporary life. ” natural behavior.
According to data released by the United Nations in the “Global E-waste Monitor 2020”, a total of 53.6 million tons of e-waste were generated worldwide in 2019, setting a record. Although the data for 2021 and beyond has not yet been finalized, the United Nations and various agencies predict that the total amount of e-waste in one year will climb to 57.4 million tons, and the amount of e-waste generated per capita will be around 7.6 kilograms.
57.4 million tons, which is more than half the weight of the Great Wall. Where do the “old loves” that we throw away or recycle to various disposal agencies end up?
The Abobrosi region, located on the outskirts of the African nation of Ghana’s capital, may be able to answer that question.
If you just look for Ghana and Abobrosi on the world map, it is difficult to connect this place with “garbage”: Ghana is located in West Africa, adjacent to the Gulf of Guinea, with meandering rivers and beautiful coastlines that outline the country in the south shape, while Abobrosi is on the shores of the Gulf of Guinea.
There is the plain behind and the sea in the distance. In imagination, this place should be a tourist resort: sunny beaches, or continuous wetlands, and the air is warm and holiday atmosphere. Even though it may have the same common problems of African countries, such as lack of industry and economic backwardness, it is still easy to feel the simple and natural beauty when you are in it…
The photography of Abobrosi subverts these imaginations. In a widely circulated set of photos, residents stand in different areas, with a large amount of black debris under their feet, and fires and thick smoke from burning garbage in the distance.
Yes, when we talk about Abobrosi now, we are not talking about a pleasant seaside area, but the largest e-waste disposal site in Africa, one of the most polluted areas in the world, and a large gathering place for “electronic waste”. . Surrounding it is a huge slum with a floating population of more than 30,000.
A 2011 report shows that Ghana imports about 150,000 tons of electronic waste every year, which come from developed countries in Europe and America, from Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and other places, and finally arrive at Abobrosi, becoming a piece of debris or a wisp of waste. Green smoke.
Young people working by the garbage dump of Abobrosi
Severely damaged, unusable electronics traveled across the ocean with “aid”.
Why these rubbish “selected” Abobrosi has been difficult to verify. The original cause that can be traced is nothing more than the cruel original sin of “poverty”: the electronic products that the developed countries will phase out will be shipped to Africa and Ghana in the form of “second-hand aid” – the initial starting point may be impossible. It is pointed out that those second-hand home appliances, mobile phones, and computers that are outdated but still usable have indeed helped African countries that cannot own them independently and bridged part of the digital divide.
But at some point, that aid changed. With the increase in the number of electronic products being eliminated, the cost of formal recycling and decomposition is increasing, and the concept of environmental protection is becoming more and more important… Developed countries that produce a large amount of electronic waste have begun to “entrain private goods” in their aid, which will seriously damage and unusable goods. Electronics traveled across the oceans with “aid”.
Those waste e-wastes that cannot be used and are difficult to be formally dismantled and disposed of by African countries with backward technology can only be like a mouth forced to open, swallowing the uncontrolled waste excretion of developed countries, allowing them to continue to occupy Ghana, Encroaching on the land and blue sky of Abobrosi.
25 years old
If it is just the elimination and stacking of discarded electronic products, Abobrosi may simply be a cramped space, and there will be no doomsday scene recorded in those shots.
In fact, e-waste contains a lot of precious metals. Take mobile phones, for example, there may be more gold that can be extracted from a ton of discarded mobile phones than a ton of gold mines. Data shows that 1 million mobile phones contain about 24 kilograms of gold, 16,000 kilograms of copper and 350 kilograms of silver. If these metals are extracted and processed through standardized channels, they can be reused in the production of new electronic products.
But the “standard channel” is not cost-effective. Developed countries are unwilling to pay, and Abobrosi is unable to master the complex craftsmanship. Therefore, the method of “finding gold from the garbage heap” becomes simple and crude – incineration.
The place where waste is incinerated is adjacent to residential areas and water sources
The piles of electronic waste were violently disassembled, and the copper that was visible to the naked eye was found first, and then women and children were allowed to separate the trace gold in the motherboard and chips. “. The fire took away those plastics and others that could not be exchanged for money, leaving copper wires and picture tubes, silver of circuit boards, aluminum on the casing…
Although the part that can be recycled and exchanged for money only accounts for 3% of the total weight of the huge garbage heap, but They can eventually turn into an enviable $70 to $140 monthly income, become a filling meal on the dinner table, and feed 40,000 people in a slum.
Burning “purification” seems to only need to light a fire and wait for the harvest, but the price of its invisibility is extremely high. Those electronic products that used to accompany us all day, in addition to the precious metals that can make money, also contain a lot of elements that are harmful to the human body. For example, lead that can damage the human blood system, mercury that damages brain nerves, cadmium and brominated flame retardants that induce cancer, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins that affect the nervous system and reproductive system…
Incineration makes these harmful Matter drifts in the air and dives into the water, eroding people’s health in every way.
The first to suffer is naturally the people who pick up and burn the garbage in the garbage all day. Most of them are teenagers who have grown up on garbage heaps since childhood, starting from picking screws and magnets, and gradually participating in incineration and recycling.
Breathing dirty air all the year round, headache, insomnia, stomach cramps and other poisoning phenomena are commonplace; walking near the burning garbage heap, there will be gray jelly-like burning objects falling on the body, the skin will grow itchy spots, touch it. It will break when touched.
The ubiquitous harmful substances cover everything in Abobrosi. Except for people who are covered in black and gray walking among the garbage heaps, there are hardly any living large natural creatures on the land here.
Trees and grasses are buried by glass and plastic debris; rivers stink, leaving only flies circling. Poultry raised here are also unable to provide healthy food – according to a sample survey by Greenpeace, the levels of PCBs and dioxins in eggs here are 220 times higher than the standards set by the European Food Safety Authority.
Accompanied by harmful garbage all day long, there are toxic substances in breathing and eating. 70% of newborns here suffer from congenital diseases or deformities. Those young people who travel through the flames to make a living by scavenging have an average life expectancy of more than 25 years.
They were born in a slum next to the e-waste heap, grew up in the wreckage and poisonous gas, firmly believed that “picking up garbage is only temporary, the future will leave here”, and they continued to fall in the whirlpool of existence, and died before the “future” came. .
What about the future?
Today, Abobrosi is often referred to as the “Sin City”, not only because of the constant burning of flames, poison and wreckage, but also because of the evil that can be seen everywhere like garbage.
There are no public service facilities here, such as the most basic guarantees such as running water, sewers, and toilets; there is no solid and stable house, and the houses here are built with wooden boards and iron sheets at will. Apart from the cramped living, it also brings endless fire hazards. . Water and housing are left unattended, and it is even more difficult to investigate and punish crimes such as robbery, theft, and drug trafficking.
e-waste all over the place
Those young people who travel through the flames to make a living by scavenging have an average life expectancy of more than 25 years.
Derived from man-made e-waste, lethal poison gas, and then induced endless evil, let Abbobrosi fall into an endless cycle of pain… Ghana and the international community, really want to sit back and watch?
A cruel fact is that although e-waste is eroding life here, it is an irresistible “survival temptation” for poor Ghana.
If you forget about the thick smoke, deformed children, and short-lived youth, receiving e-waste from developed countries seems to be a good “win-win”: in developed countries, recycling a discarded computer monitor in accordance with environmental regulations and standards , the cost needs to be at least 3.5 euros, and with the increase of labor costs and other expenses, it will increase year by year, but if it is sent to Ghana, it only needs to pay about 1.5 euros in logistics costs; for Ghana, accepting these e-wastes can get 1 The legitimate output value of between 100 million and 280 million US dollars can be written on the table, and the gray transactions generated behind them have secretly supported countless people to survive.
Can we cut off this kind of uncontrolled garbage dumping from the “source” of developed countries? In fact, as early as 1992, the “Basel Convention” clearly prohibited developed countries from transporting harmful “foreign garbage” to less developed countries such as Africa. But what a convention can restrict is only conscience, not to mention that people in the Abobrosi area have turned burning, picking up, recycling and selling into a way of life, and even formed a smooth-running “industrial chain” “, uprooting is difficult.
E-waste heap, with poverty. Not only Abobrosi in Ghana, but also in the world, Old Seelampur in New Delhi, India, Hall Road in Lahore, Pakistan, Igam Garbage Dump in Lagos, Nigeria, Dandole Garbage Dump in Kenya…they In a different land, with a different name, but day after day, it’s the same heart-wrenching face.
In recent years, some non-profit organizations and international companies in developed countries have also set up related projects to help regions such as Abobrosi in Ghana conduct e-waste recycling in a more environmentally friendly way. Although it is difficult to remove the tumor, the conscience is still there, and it may be possible to save it in the future.