Achtung Germany! Agbogbloshie (Ghana) Pollution is from AUTOMOBILE Waste Not E-Waste / WEEE


The 'Burning Environmental Issue' is Automobile Waste, not e-waste.

Clean up Africa's car pollution, worry about electronics later (when you understand it).

Hey, Listen..."Sending European used cell phones" to Africa is not the problem, and arresting African export-import traders won't clean the water or bring back "Eden".

For two years, I've been making the point that Agbogbloshie is not the largest e-waste dump in the world, and that geeks of color are being racially profiled and arrested.  Those things are true.  But Accra is polluted, and the grants to date are misspent and misdirected.

Before Germany spends $15M - 25M on an e-waste recycling solution, they should look at the photos in the link more carefully.

It's a tire, and a ball of automobile wire, not a cell phone.

There is a serious pollution problem in Accra and other African cities. Its cause should be obvious as you wend your way from Accra's Kotoka International Airport to the hotel, the day before you spend another hour wending your way to Agbogbloshie's slum... or stuck bumper-to-bumber in Accra (or Lagos, or Nairobi) traffic.


Follow the trail.

[photos taken at Agbogbloshie Scrap Yard by Robin Ingenthron for WR3A - except for the screenshots from MTV music videos of Placebo and Beyonce, and DW article]

Screenshot of our buddy Awal Muhammed Basit / SashaRainbow Placebo MTV video
The water in Korle Lagoon was undrinkable before cell phones were even invented.  Nobody was swimming and fishing there in 2002 (and anyone who claims so is incredible).

The smoke at Agbogbloshie is awful.  But the Blacksmith Institute's $1M wire recycling grant (which was reportedly nibbled away at until the site got a $100k industrial cable cutting machine, clearly unsuitable for electronic wire) did little, if anything, to alleviate it.  You can't save Agbogbloshie without addressing auto waste.  Correctly diagnose a problem before issuing treatment.

Even most of the wire burning is automobile harness wire!

Ask an Expert Which Automobile Make and Model This Console Harness wire came from

Mise au point mal orientée

Stormwater runoff in Accra is full of motor oil and freon. The Odaw River is dead kilometers upstream, before it even reaches Agbo.

The first big wire-looking pile I saw at the burning area of Agbogbloshie was actually steel radial wires from tires.  The smoke is from tires, set alit with gasoline.  The young men burn car seats and console plastic.  Most of the scrap in Agbogbloshie is car waste.

If Germany is going to spend $15M Euros on a recycling plant, before they begin, they need to focus on automobile recycling.  A grant for cleaner scrap processing tools and PPE could actually do a lot of good.

In the meantime, Accra has malaria, and malaria comes from mosquitoes, and mosquitoes are breeding in abandoned tires... so the burners are actually doing the city a service, at the expense of their lungs.  Buy them a tire shredder.

Misdirected Focus?  The pile BEHIND the photographer is tire radial wire.  From burned tires.
Here are some photos to explain this.  If Kevin McElvaney, Sasha Rainbow, StEP, UNEP, Bellini, Jacopo Ottaviana, RT, BAN, Greenpeace and others who have hyped the "largest e-waste dump on earth" actually give a scrap about Africans and their health, they will stop using photos of this site to leverage money from OEMs (Samsung, Sony, LG, etc) and agree that Agbogbloshie is an automobile waste filter for Ghana.  The lead in the soil likely comes from lead acid batteries and insulated industrial wire casings. The machine strips thick utility grade cable, which can have leaded insulation, which used to be burned (to hide theft). After the cables are stripped in the new PureEarth chopper, someone should make sure the casing doesn't wind up burned at the landfill, like the auto seats, tires and consoles.

Water quality and air will never improve until the traffic jam - to - scrapyard cycle becomes "circular economy".

INPUT: Bicycle Waste in Accra can be managed in the Auto Waste Factory

You can keep all your exotic photos and all the alarm and keep recruiting young European white savior Barbie economy, nothing has to change.  Just agree with me, right now, that the problem is automobile waste, and that electronics are a small small part of the environmental remediation.

OUTPUT:  Car Junkyard Steel

Beyonce can keep her hyena photos, Placebo need not edit their MTV video,  Kevin McElvaney can keep his creepy 'still not sponsored' videos, the poverty porn economy can continue, photojournalists can keep their jobs.  Just change the "takeaway" to automobile pollution, stop criticizing Africa's cell phones.  It's all still about pollution, it just need not revolve around arresting and chaining Africa's best and brightest Tech Sector refurbishers! #freejoebenson

MISDIRECTED FOCUS:  The little girl is in front of car scrap

Used electronics purchased for reuse by Ghana's Tech Sector will eventually be discarded, but the Geeks of Tamale have no intersection with the unrefined "boys" burning car wire in Agbobgbloshie.

Europeans are distracted by fire and childrens faces. They mean well, but no one is burning laptops.  Where there is smoke, there's fire, but e-waste doesn't fuel it.

The root cause is poverty.  This blog posted a link to a study two years ago which assessed wire burning and tire burning in several cities in USA and Europe (especially California and Italy), and associated it with young men unemployment.  When unemployment drops, wire burning stops.  Because it's bored testosterone laden guys who burn wires all day.  There's very little money to be made in it.  And when you compare the photojournalists fascination with the small part of Agbogbloshie landscape where the fires occur, you see we have something in common there.

Ghana will welcome its colonial saviors to help make amends through environmental remediation grants. Auto waste is issue #1. Charcoal stoves are probably #2. You'll have to go a long, long, long way down the list before you find "waste from unrepairable imported electronics" because no one in Africa has incentive or means to import that. And as our board member Emmanuel (born in Accra) noted, you can't start with keeping "strategic metals" in Europe if you want to pass for a partner.  If you want the metals from the scrapyard to be sent back to Europe, either invest in takeback, or outpay the Chinese and Indians, just like everyone else.

If it's manufacturers you are after, here is the list of German companies whose scrap outweighs all the computer and TV and cell phone scrap in Ghana.  They'd benefit from a 15M investment in Agbogbloshie that takes the material there - 90% vehicle waste - and turns it into clean steel, aluminum and copper.
  • Audi.
  • BMW.
  • Ford-Werke GmbH.
  • Mercedes-Benz.
  • Opel.
  • Porsche.
  • Volkswagen.
  • A–C.
Save the Odaw River, save the Korle lagoon.  Invest in modern automobile recycling in Africa.

NOT by me, it's Sasha Rainbow's Placebo video. Life is what she made it.

Yep, more tire radial wire. Keeps mosquitos down

Not my photo either
 placebo talk talk ghana agbogbloshie life's what you make it GIF
Next time, frame it with a tire, @itsSashaRainbow

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