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Toxic life of scrappers – burning e-waste and bashing car parts at Agbogbloshie

3.12.2018 - ACCRA
PHOTO: Martin Holzknecht / Arnika

The pungent odour is the first give away of arriving closer to Agbogbloshie scrapyard. The thick smell of burning plastics is covering whole area around, yet the locals don’t seem to mind it. Right in front of the gate to the world’s largest e-waste dump, the Agbogbloshie Market is located with various types of vegetable, mainly onion and cassava, displayed openly despite the toxic ashes flying all over the place. And with this view you walk onto one of the most polluted places on the planet…

The history of the scrapyard dates back to 1991 when the first workers came here and established the facility between 1994 and 1995. Since then the dump serves as the final destination for e-waste and car from Nigeria, Burkina, Faso, Togo or Benin but also from the United Kingdom and other countries of the European Union or other abroad destination like for example USA.

The workers come mostly from the Northern rural parts of Ghana arriving to make living in the country’s capital; vast majority of them also live among the mountains of old washing machines and TV screens. The life on the scrapyard’s premises follows the traditional tribal arrangement under the rule of the local authority, Idrisu Saibu, the chairman often referred to as the chieftain.

How many people live in the area covering over thirty hectares (roughly 44 football pitches) is unclear. According to several estimates, the scrapyard is home to over 50,000 people but the figure is even higher in some reports.

See Arnika's photos from the Agbobloshie scrapyard: How does the world's largest e-waste dump looks like?


 All over the place, you see copper wires, aluminium or glass shards, old trucks, refrigerators computer boards, dismantled air-condition units or car engines piling up to four meters high. It is hard to distinguish garbage from people’s sheds. The only things rising over this skyline are two mosques and the dark grey smoke from several fireplaces.

Scrappers use primitive methods, such as open burning, to remove plastic insulation from copper cables causing releases of highly dangerous chemicals. Because of the toxic pollution most of local workers die in their 20’s, according to The Guardian's reportage published in 2014.

In 2013, the Agbogbloshie scrapyard made it to the list of ten world’s worst polluted places.

 

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