Friday, July 24, 2009

This E-Waste Dump Site in Ghana Should Scare You on Many, Many Levels

Mid-November 2008, I did two blogs on the ewaste being dumped in China and the environmental problems that were occuring due to improper disposal of our old electronics. Click here for part one; and, click here for part two. The picture below is of Agbogbloshie, Ghana; although, one can be excused for thinking it was a dump site in China. So far, most of the attention surrounding e-waste has been on the environmental issues involved; and, there are plenty - all of which should scare the socks off you.

This dump site and others like it in Ghana should scare you on so many levels I barely know where to begin.

This dump site in Agbogbloshie, Ghana is an example of improper e-waste disposal. Photo: Hahn. Taken from

Greenpeace released a report about e-waste being labeled as “second-hand” or “donation” and then dumped on Ghana for disposal. PBS has just released a video on the growing e-waste problems in Ghana. The entire documentary can be viewed at

I am proud to say that the expedition was led by correspondent Peter Klein and a group of graduate students from the University of British Columbia (UBC). UBC is the largest university in BC and is located in Vancouver, BC.

The environmental issues surrounding this issue are enormous; and, reasonably well-known. However, a new crime has become a burgeoning business for those involved in e-waste disposal. This newest crime is perpetrated in Ghana; but, the victims are overseas in such countries as the USA, Canada, UK, and other European countries.

At the dump sites in Ghana, after the e-waste has been separated; usable material salvaged; and, unusable material is discarded, salvageable hard drives are sold on the streets. Most of the hard drives haven’t been cleaned property; and, therefore still contain personal information.

Off-camera, some Ghanaians admit to criminals combing through these hard drives, recovering information such as credit card numbers, account numbers and personal files. It is no wonder the US State Department lists Ghana as one of the top sources of cyber crime in the world.

Photo courtesy: TreeHugger

The locals call the area “Sodom and Gomorrah,” as it has become an e-waste graveyard, with electronics from the U.S. and the U.K., among other countries.

On the videos there is laughter by the man relating how all they need is the hard drive to find out everything about you; and, then they empty the bank accounts of these unsuspecting victims. Unfortunately, the money is never recovered.

The maker of this documentary bought some hard drives in Ghana, brought them back to Canada and viewed them using “tricks of the trade” taught to them in Africa. Amazingly, they found documents from Northrop Grumman (among other companies) that revealed the details of a $22m government contract and information regarding the Pentagon, NASA, Homeland Security and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

The following two videos are the major portion of the PBS documentary you may have accessed at the top of the page. If you haven't watched it yet, do so now. I guarantee you will be horrified at what you see.

1 comment:

kathi said...

Puts me in mind of the movie, "The Gods Must be Crazy." Instead of a coke bottle, they have hard drives dropped in their laps. Imagine it must feel like the foreign fools are dropping money on their heads.

What are suggestions for proper disposal of used electronics?