#2 Agbogbloshie E-Waste Site Tour and Day 2 of the Oceanography Summer School

Agbogbloshiegoatcopperflagwide shot20160802_142200We started off Tuesday the second day of the oceanography summer school. We started off by hearing a lecture about satellite oceanography. Specifically they talked about remote sensing to detect things like oil spills, along with how salinity is useful for things like detecting the amount of precipitation. Later on we discussed fluid dynamics. We talked about turbidity, eddies, math modeling, and more. We then had a lecture on biogeochemistry discussing measuring isotopic rates and more.

After the lectures there are 3 labs, however today may research partner and I headed to Agbogbloshie, Ghana’s largest electronic waste recycling site. Electronic waste includes any electronic product (t.v.), phones, washing machines, computers, cars, and more. Million of tons of e-waste is shipped into the country. About 75% of the materials work and care sold but the 25% is dumped ad workers in Agbogbloshie use various tactics to recover the precious metals like copper, gold, aluminum, and platinum, and plastics. The workers use techniques such as burning the materials to reach the metal this can be really harmful to their health.

When we arrived to Agbogbloshie we met a solar lantern seller. He provides solar lights to people who cannot afford it, he allows the people to pay him back on credit. We interviewed him and he went over the history of Agbogbloshie. Agbogbloshie was previously a wetland however due to various conflicts, and a lost of many formal sector jobs, migrants from Northern Ghana came to Agbogbloshie to work in the e-waste industry. If provide income to our 20,000 people, however it burdens their health. After the interview our contact and his colleague took us through the e-waste site.

Walking through the site was one of the most eye-opening and impactful experiences.  Miles upon miles of waste. We saw workers burning for copper plumes of black smoke bellowing out. Livestock was all around. These animals were to provided a food source to some of the workers, however they were eating the waste. The livestock did not even bother to move from the plumes of smoke because they seemed used to it.

As an aspiring environmental scientist and public health worker, this area had a huge impact on me. There were no mask being wore, or safety protocols, or adequate sanitation facilitates. Open defecation is common, and especially since the government does not provide proper waste disposal to the informal workers.

This made me mad at the United States, which contributes to the waste here and around the world at other e-waste sites, but we offer no real support to the workers. The United States has not event signed the Basal Convention that tries to reduce the exportation of broken and hazardous.

We left the United States with a lot of heavy feelings, but good observations. As my time in Ghana continues we are planning to interview with some researchers, professors, non-profits, and Ghana Environmental Protection Agency workers to further learn the various perspectives on the issue. All of our interviews will be used in our podcast for the Michigan Sustainability Case Study we are conducting on the e-waste issue. The goal is to use the case study as interactive learning resource for various University of Michigan classes.




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