WHAT IS HAZARDOUS WASTE?
Hazardous wastes are poisonous forms of waste. They can be byproducts of manufacturing and farming. They can also come from the house. The waste can be liquid, solid or gaseous. It comes from old batteries, old paint or electrical goods. These have to be regulated because they are so dangerous. Problems arise if they are not regulated.
The waste can harm humans and animals. This is because toxins can build up in the ground and in water. If we drink the water or eat fish from it this can make us ill.
E-waste is a form of hazardous waste, specifically old electrical goods. It is made up of old wires and computers. In 2015 there were 41.8 million tones of e-waste dumped in the world. West Africa has big problems with e-waste. This is because countries in Africa do not have ways to recycle e-waste. Because of this it is not properly thrown away. The problems are big in Ghana, Benin, Nigeria and Liberia.
Raising awareness about e-waste is important. If people know about it they can stop the problem. This can help to stop e-waste from getting onto the streets.
Agbogbloshie in Ghana is one of the biggest dumps in the world. Here e-waste is burned. This is because it is the fastest way to get rid of the waste. But this has huge health impacts. Lots of children are employed here. Handling e-waste is especially bad for children because they are still growing. Many of the children will die young because of exposure to e-waste. It can cause skin diseases and heart problems. A lot of these children have little energy and lots of headaches.
Most of the recycling of e-waste that takes place in Africa is informal. This is in unmonitored landfills and dumpsites. The problem is that most countries do not have policies about disposing e-waste.
Even countries with ICT policies do not have full policies on e-waste. Zambia has an ICT policy but nothing about e-waste. In east Africa only Kenya has an e-waste recycling plant. Only a few countries such as Zambia and Uganda have policies that ban imports.
Countries with policies have specific ways of getting rid of hazardous waste. Some have collection days for toxic waste. It has to be taken to certain places to make sure that it is safe. Hazardous waste facilities store the waste in sealed containers in the ground. It is often sealed there with a cap of hard clay. This means that the waste cannot impact people. Dumping hazardous waste is a serious crime in some countries because it is so bad. This is why it is regulated.
Some people are trying to solve the problem. One way of doing this is empowering local people to make a difference. This can stop people from dumping and burning the waste. There can be uses of e-waste. It is important to learn these uses so that we can recycle. This way people are not exposed to the waste.
Companies such as QAMP are working with the community in Agbogbloshie to try and recycle e-waste in a safe way. People can then develop new products out of the junk sold at the site instead of dumping it. This means that they can sell this and make money.
A group WorkVentures refurbishes old computers and sells them on. This means that they do not end up being thrown out. The computers are then sold to people at a discount. It is important to try and recycle as much e-waste as possible. This could save the lives of the children working in the dumping areas.
The problem will not be solved quickly. Using less electronics will help to solve the problem. If everybody replaces their electronics less then this is a start to a solution. We also need to make sure that people are educated about the impacts of electronics. If we can reduce and recycle then this will make a big difference.