Toxic trash exported to Africa

Large quantities of obsolete electronic equipment exported from the USA and Europe to Lagos, Nigeria are ending up gathering dust in warehouses or being dumped and burned.


A new investigation by toxic trade watchdog Basel Action Network (BAN), has revealed that large quantities of obsolete electronic equipment exported from the USA and Europe to Lagos, Nigeria for ‘re-use and repair’ are ending up gathering dust in warehouses or being dumped and burned.



The report entitled “The Digital Dump: Exporting High-Tech Re-use and Abuse to Africa,” exposes what is thought to be an escalating global trade in toxic, obsolete, discarded computers and other e-scrap collected in North America and Europe and sent to developing countries by waste brokers and so-called recyclers.



In Lagos, while there is a legitimate market and ability to repair and refurbish old electronic equipment including computers, monitors, TVs and cell phones, the local experts complain that of the estimated 500 40-foot containers shipped to Lagos each month, as much as 75% of the imports are “junk” and are not economically repairable or marketable.



Consequently, this e-waste, which is legally a hazardous waste is being discarded and routinely burned.



According to BAN, much of this trade is illegal under international rules governing trade in toxic waste such as the Basel Convention, but governments, particularly the United States refuses to ratify, implement or properly enforce these rules.


Proper enforcement would require all such escrap exports, whole or in parts, to be properly tested for functionality and certified to be going to re-use destinations rather than for disposal or recycling.