Agbogbloshie is the world’s biggest e-waste dumpsite and is located close to Accra, Ghana. Electronic waste – TVs, PCs, HiFi systems, refrigerators – defines the landscape of this former wetland and recreation area.

Traders from Europe, US, China and India label their containers as “Development Aid” or “Second-Hand Products”, and in the end, up to 500 containers find their way, illegally, to Tema Harbour, 20 miles east of Agbogbloshie. Customers around the globe expect proper recycling, but illegal dumping became a lucrative business.

Here in Agbogbloshie 7 to 25-year-old boys smash stones and simple tools against TVs and PCs to get to the metals, especially copper. They will earn approximately $2.50 per day. Most of them, hoping for a better future, left their families from the poor northern and upper west regions of Ghana for this kind of work. 

Injuries like burns, untreated wounds, lung problems, eye damage, and back problems go hand in hand with chronic nausea, anorexia, debilitating headaches and respiratory problems. Almost everyone suffers from insomnia. Smoke and invisible toxins, especially cadmium, harm the workers because they often don’t know about the risks and can only afford flimsy footwear like flip-flops. Most of them die from cancer while in their 20s.

Besides these horrible facts and circumstances, though, you will find a colourful and spiritual environment in Agbogbloshie, with optimistic people. Many young people believe that this is just a temporary situation and hope that they will find their way out of it one day.

Nevertheless Agbogbloshie is a socio-economic and environmental disaster. It is estimated that e-waste dumping in Agbogbloshie will further double by 2020. The 40,000 settlers have their own nicknamed this area; Sodom and Gomorrah.

Kevin McElvaney

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