Basel Action Network Agrees: Ghana Is Good

The Report from Ghana showing 85% reuse - not "80% primitive dumping" has finally taken traction.  People are wondering what is going on.  Basel Action Network had previously, repeatedly, claimed that 80-90% of the used electronics imported into Ghana were "toxic junk".

Last week, BAN tried to "spin" the report in their blog.  They announce it as "just released" (I spoke to them about it when it was released in April).  But perhaps they've now had a chance to review it.  Mike at BAN describes the study as follows:

The Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana just published their “e-Waste Country Assessment,” based on actual data from Customs authorities, field visits and meetings with key stakeholders — that is, from credible, in-country, official sources...

Ghana reports that at least 35% (and perhaps much more) of imported, second-hand electronic and electrical equipment (EEE) is non-functioning, most of that coming from the EU and the USA. Some is repairable — but fails soon and adds to Ghana’s growing e-Waste crisis.
The functioning equipment does create opportunities. But the dumping and burning of the rest results in serious consequences on the environment and a threat to public health. “Even children, sometimes as young as 5 years old, were observed to be involved in the recovery of materials from WEEE recycling, earning less than US $20 per month.”
BAN tries to impugn the repair market by including material documented as being professionally repaired in the "unacceptable" category, boosting the bad export number to 35%.  It is still LESS than HALF what BAN has told reporters.  And the repaired material is not described as "fails soon"... and the report says nothing about "(and perhaps much more)".

This post from BAN completely agrees with everything I've said.  Exporting more than 1/3 "waste" to Africa is economically impossible.   While I disagree with including "successfully repaired" with "waste", and think 15% is the problem, I'll concede for the moment that one third may be bad.

This now puts BAN in my corner about "waste tourism".   I now invite BAN to agree with me that the Europol and Interpol reports which describe African screeners (who buy and source the equipment in Europe and the USA) as "waste tourists".    I now invite BAN to join me in declaring the Europol conclusion that "organized crime" is behind the exports to be racist, bigoted, hogwash.

Next, if we can agree that the "problem" is somewhere between 15% and 35%, and that most of the waste being burned in Ghana's dumps was imported decades ago and was in active use for years, can we not also agree that the good part of the imports - 65-85% - should be continued?  Can we not use the economics to generate fair trade solutions, giving incentives for the repair markets (like the one EPA Lisa Jackson visited in Ethiopia) to become take-back and recycling programs, like our WR3A partners in Mexico and Malaysia?

Thank you to BAN for addressing this important study, and for admitting that MOST exports to Africa are good people trading good things with other good people.  Now, can BAN take the next step. and publicly denounce "no intact unit" as an export standard?  The percentage of "waste" in shredded equipment is higher than the percentage of waste in repaired equipment.   E-Stewards should not be allowed to destroy working equipment?

I'm going to invite BAN representatives to present with me at a Sustainability Forum here at Middlebury College.   They can meet geeks of color like Wahab of Accra Ghana, Oslo of Egypt, Ow Fung of Malaysia, and Jinex of Peru.  Looking the Technicians in the eye, and saying you now understand they are not about "80%" e-waste, that they are not "primitives"... Maybe BAN can help my friends to source even BETTER material, and more of it, and to join us in Fair Trade Recycling.  Maybe they can donate equipment to our UN partners, or to Meltwater Academy?  Neil of Cascades, a fellow RPCV, could moderate.

Join me?

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