African countries are demanding action to stem the import of electronic waste, including old computers and mobile phones from Europe, where strict environmental laws make exporting used electronics cheaper than getting rid of them at home, according to a report in TheGuardian.
In some cases, the products are sent to Africa as donations for re-use, even though they are no longer useful, the report said.
Barely a third of such items are recycled at home in Europe, researchers say. The bulk goes into landfills but thousands of tonnes of electronic goods are exported because secondhand computer components and recycled metals are lucrative commodities for poorer countries.
Some African countries have adopted an international convention on hazardous waste calling for uniform action to end the import of discarded electronic goods containing dangerous components, according to a newly-released document.
Europe’s computers and other electronic and electrical waste are either dumped in landfills or shipped abroad for disposal because of the high cost of recycling in Europe.
In June, signatories to the Bamako convention on the export of hazardous waste to Africa met in Mali. African representatives called for enforcement of the Weee directive and for tougher national laws.
The Bamako meeting marked “the first time African parties have by themselves called for rigorous action to prevent e-waste dumping,” according to the Basel Action Network, which campaigns against the trade in toxic waste, the report said.
Legislation requires that at least 85 percent of electrical and e-waste generated in the European Union must be recycled by 2020. This includes solar panels, fluorescent lights containing mercury, and equipment with ozone-depleting substances.
In Ghana, 30 percent of imports of allegedly secondhand products were useless, despite E.U. efforts calling for electronic goods to have some reusable value, a U.N. report said. Overall, the report shows that about 85 percent of containers arriving in Ghana with electrical and electronic goods came from Europe, with 4 percent from Asia.
Illicit waste is typically hidden in containers carrying legitimate cargo to thwart customs inspections, authorities say, according to the report. The U.N. environment program has called for better controls in Africa, where the homegrown e-waste problem is also growing.
Africa is expected to outstrip Europe in the volume of e-waste it generates within the next five years, according to a report in Phys.org.
In a related waste export matter, the E.U. is moving to end the practice of “beaching” old ships in foreign countries, the report said.