Ghana is one of Africa’s known hot spots for unsound management of e-waste. The pictures from burning cables, smoking piles of TV-cases and children taking-apart computers have been published on media channels throughout the world and gained Agbogbloshie, which is the country’s biggest e-waste recycling cluster, the doubtful title as one of the world’s most polluted places.
While media mostly connects these problems to the illegal waste imports from developed countries, a UNEP study published in 2012 revealed that the bulk of e-waste treated in Agbogbloshie comes from Ghanaian households, businesses and offices. Therefore, strategies aiming to solve the e-waste problem in Ghana need to take two aspects into account: Clamp down on the illegal e-waste trade and build-up of sustainable management systems in the country.
Building technology partnerships
While European countries are subsequently tightening their export controls for used equipment, the recycling sector in Ghana remains in its infancy until today. Although thousands of individuals live from recovering metals such as steel, copper and aluminum from e-waste, almost all of them operate without registration and outside any system to control the emissions of hazardous substances. In parallel, the Ghanaian businesses and households constantly increase their consumption of electrical and electronic equipment so that domestically generated e-waste volumes are growing every year.
The Ghana-part of the Sustainable Recycling Industries project supports small and medium sized enterprises that would like to become part of a sustainable e-waste recycling chain in Ghana. This support encompasses the development of alternative business models, transfer of know-how on recycling practices and technologies, as well as the access to markets for recycling outputs. A specific emphasis will be paid to informal recyclers and ways to make them part of a more sustainable e-waste recycling system without endangering their livelihoods.
Standards and conformity
The SRI project also supports national attempts for standards and conformity assessment of e-waste recycling in Ghana. With such an approach, recyclers will be able to prove via third-party certification that they apply best practices in terms health and safety, pollution control and resource conservation. Prospectively, such an approach is a fundamental base for a sound regulative framework on all e-waste recycling activities in the country.
Local standards and conformity assessment systems are also important elements for the overall project aim to build a global sustainable secondary raw material supply.
Systems financing sound recycling
Standards to protect human health and the environment are costly. Thus, responsible recyclers are faced with the problem that they have significantly higher costs compared to recyclers not applying any health and safety and pollution control measures. This is particular the case in Ghana, were households and businesses sell their e-waste to informal collectors, who offer cash money for each device handed out. In this situation, sound recyclers have severe difficulties to compete with collectors that are linked to crude recycling.
In order to bridge this structural disadvantage, additional revenue streams for sound recyclers need to be identified. In this context, the project elaborates on ways, the globally accepted concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) can be successfully implemented in Ghana.