The inquiry revealed that hundreds of thousands of discarded items – including televisions and computers – were being shipped to countries such as Nigeria and Ghana. There, young men and children working on poisoned waste dumps strip the appliances of their components. When broken up for parts, the items can release poisonous chemicals.
Under British law, the appliances must be dismantled or recycled by specialist contractors. Classified as hazardous waste, they never should have left Britain.
Investigators followed a defunct television – fitted with a satellite tracking device — from a dump site in Basingstoke, England, to an electronics market in Lagos, Nigeria. The television had been purchased by a London-based dealer, one of many who buy up and export some of the estimated 940,000 tonnes of domestic electronic waste produced annually in Britain.
It is only one example of the problems with “e-waste”. Legally, functioning electronic equipment can be exported, but broken electronic goods may not be sent outside the European Union to a country with a developing economy. Abuses of the law are believed to be widespread.
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