We have 2 or 3 computers and other assorted extinct gadgets that we never have gotten around to discarding. Knowing how bad a system there is that exists for their disposal is not encouraging.
Toxic Shock: How Western Rubbish is Destroying Africa
Western corporations are exploiting legal loopholes to dump their waste in Africa. And in Ivory Coast, the price has been death and disease for thousands.
One August morning, people living near the Akouedo rubbish dump in Abidjan, capital of the Ivory Coast, woke up to a foul-smelling air. Soon, they began to vomit, children got diarrhoea, and the elderly found it difficult to breathe. "The smell was unbelievable, a cross between rotten eggs and blocked drains," said one Abidjan resident. "After 10 minutes in the thick of it, I felt sick."
As they live near the biggest landfill in Abidjan, the people of Akouedo are used to having rubbish dumped on their doorstep. Trucks unload broken glass, rotting food and used syringes. Children try to make the best of their dismal playground, looking for scraps of metal and old clothes to sell for a few cents.
But this time, the waste would benefit no one. By yesterday, at least six people, including two children, had died from the fumes...
Probo Koala, the ship that offloaded the waste, is registered in Panama and chartered by the Dutch trading company Trafigura Beheer. Trafigura had tried to offload its slops in Amsterdam, but the Amsterdam Port Services recognised its contents as toxic and asked to renegotiate terms. Trafigura said shipping delays would mean penalties of at least 250,000 US dollars (£133,000) so handed it over to a disposal company in Abidjan alongside a "written request that the material should be safely disposed of, according to country laws, and with all the correct documentation."
This story is a common one. All down the West Africa coast, ships registered in America and Europe unload containers filled with old computers, slops, and used medical equipment. Scrap merchants, corrupt politicians and underpaid civil servants take charge of this rubbish and, for a few dollars, will dump them off coastlines and on landfill sites....
The United Nations Environment Programme estimates that worldwide, 20 million to 50 million tons of electronics are discarded each year. Less than 10 per cent gets recycled and half or more ends up overseas.
Update: There have been 7 deaths and 44,000 seeking hospital treatment. The company denies disposing of toxic waste.