Video: Ghana a Literal 'Digital Dumping Ground'

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A new video from PBS Frontline explores a small village in Ghana, which is the one of the world’s largest e-waste dumping grounds.

Led by correspondent Peter Klein and a group of graduate students from the University of British Columbia, the expedition shows improperly disposed electronics, such as computers and televisions, with labels from the U.S.

This dump site in Agbogbloshie, Ghana is an example of improper e-waste disposal. Photo: Lightstalkers.org/Jane Hahn

This dump site in Agbogbloshie, Ghana is an example of improper e-waste disposal. Photo: Lightstalkers.org/Jane Hahn

Along the banks of Korle Lagoon, one of the most polluted bodies of water on earth, 13-year-old Alex is the group’s guide as he shows his home in a small shanty town buried in a sea of e-waste. Smoke and out-dated electronics serves as the setting for this teen’s life.

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.

How Has It Gotten This Far?

According to the video, exporters got around laws by labeling the electronics as “donations,” and Ghanaians welcomed what they thought were donations to “bridge the digital divide.”

But the problem isn’t thousands of miles away. It’s also affecting Americans in a big way: identity theft.

After the e-waste has been separated and unusable material is discarded, salvageable hard drives are sold on the streets. The problem is that most of the hard drives 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.

This is a major problem in Ghana, which the U.S. State Department lists as one of the top sources of cyber crime in the world.

But the U.S. is responding to the e-waste dumping problem. A proposed bill could prohibit exports of certain types of electronics materials meant for recycling. However, some organizations are criticizing the bill for “loopholes,” citing that many recyclers will take advantage of the bill as it doesn’t ban sending waste overseas.

Currently, there are no laws in the U.S. prohibiting dumping overseas.

Part 1 – Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground

Part 2 – Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground

This video has been republished on YouTube and does not express the views or opinions of Earth911. Check out PBS Frontline for original video.

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