Posted By: Brian Aboh
Source: Spur Magazine Nigeria 2013.
Electronic waste (E-Waste) or WEEE (waste from electrical and electronic equipment), simply describes when electronic devices reach the end of their useful life and are discarded. Although there is no standard definition of e-waste, it can be defined as any discarded equipment that depends on electromagnetic fields and electric currents to function properly including equipment for the generation, transfer and measurement of current (Balakrishnan, R. et al.2007). E-Waste which includes all obsolete electronic product is now the fastest growing component in the solid waste stream and this has been a source of dangerous waste like old televisions and personal computers which have a high content of heavy metals and organic compounds that pose risks to the environment, health and to sustainable economic growth ( Onwughara, N.et al.2010). The ongoing consumption of new technology has led to over 80 percent of the world’s high-tech waste ending up in Africa and Asia. Nigeria has ended up as one of the top dumping grounds for toxic, chemical and electronic waste from the developed world (Green Diary, 2007). The boom in import trade of used PCs is so prominent that just one warehouse complex in Apapa Port, Lagos is handling up to 40 containers load of e-waste each month ( BBC,2006). Kitan Ogungbuyi, a scientist with the Nigerian Environment ministry, emphasizes that the condition of what is coming in can be easily disguised. “We have more than 500 tonnes coming in daily, most of the time shipped as used electronics for which the documentation is not clear or has been manipulated”, she says.
Following the E-Waste Trail to Nigeria.
EU legislation stipulates that it is illegal to import electronic goods but a Greenpeace investigation followed the trail of a TV crammed into a container with similar TVs which was not even tested to see if it was in working condition. Through a tracking device that provide location updates via GPS, the TV magically ended up in Nigeria (Greenpeace, 2009). Jim Puckett of an environmental NGO, the Basel Action Network, shed more light by blaming dubious exporters who take advantage of re-use category to offload their environmental responsibilities, enrich themselves and avoid disposal costs (BBC,2006). The poorest people, especially children, end up being the people who work, without safety measures, on the sites where this junk is dismantled. The workers are exposed to highly toxic chemicals like lead, which can damage reproductive systems; cadmium, which causes kidney damage; and mercury, which damages the brain (Greenpeace, 2009). The threat of “Chemical time bomb scenario” was foreseen in research carried out at Nigeria’s University of Ibadan by Professor OladDele Osibanjo, who warned that the dumping e-waste is creating a toxic legacy. “We have found heavy metals in the soil, as well as in plants and people who eat vegetables”, he says. He also added “That has a lot of social implications. You have grazing animals, people picking vegetables and eating them, and then the drinking water containing these toxins” ( BBC, 2006). The influx of this junk, especially PCs, has contributed to the increase of Cyber crimes in Nigeria, whereby the hard-drives are dismantled to retrieve sensitive information for scamming activities. Uduma Okeh, Executive Director of Green Earth Preservation Charter (GEPC) suggests that not only should the government pass laws to restrict and limit the flow of hazardous substances and discarded electronics into Nigeria. There is also a requirement for only electronics manufactured by companies in compliant with non-toxic component requirements with detailed information of the chemical contents be allowed into Nigeria. He went further to suggest that the Nigerian National Assembly needs to adopt an e-waste legislation called National Electronic Waste Management Act to help regulate the disposal of e-waste (Green Diary, 2007).
Balakrishnan,R.B, Anand,K.P, and Chiya A.B. 2007. Electrical and Electronic Waste: A Global Environmental Problem. Journal of Waste Management and Research. Vol. 25, pp. 307-317.
BBC. 2006. Nigeria Fears e-Waste ‘toxic legacy’. <accessed Oct. 7th, 2013> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6193625.stm.
Green Diary. 2007. E-waste Poisoning in Nigeria. <accessed Oct. 7th, 2013>http://www.greendiary.com/e-waste-poisoning-in-nigeria.html.
Greenpeace. 2009. Undercover Operations Exposes Illegal Dumping of E-Waste in Nigeria.<accessed Oct. 7th, 2013> http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/e-waste-nigeria180209/
Greenpeace. 2009. Following the E-Waste Trail. <accessed Oct. 7th, 2013> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEmOsq7aWD8
Nigeria Spur. 2013. Experts Move to Tackle E-Waste Problem. <accessed Oct. 7th, 2013> http://spurmag.com/2013/04/10/experts-move-to-tackle-e-waste-problem/
Onwughara, N.I, Nnorom, I.C, Kanno, O.C, and Chukwuma R.C. 2010. Disposal Methods and Heavy metals Released from certain Electrical and Electronic Equipment Wastes in Nigeria: Adoption of Environmental Sound Recycling System. International Journal of Environmental Sciences and Developments. Vol. 1, No. 4. http://www.ijesd.org/papers/57-D460.pdf.