A critical examination of global environmental hazard of e-waste and its threat to human security: a case study of agbogbloshie e-waste dumpsite ghana
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Technology has had an incalculable impact on the fabric of human society. As electronic gadgets and appliances continue to ease and improve our living conditions, society has become reliant on them. According to a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) 2015 report, the electronic industry is one of the largest and fastest-growing industries, while also producing the most e-waste of electronic gadgets and appliances globally in the millions of tonnes per year.
Schwab (2016) explains in his book The Fourth (4th) Industrial Revolution how the boom in technology has presented a variety of opportunities to humanity. Households, health and welfare institutions, education, commerce, and trade all use a variety of electronic products for a variety of purposes. The popularity of these electronic products can be attributed to their ever-increasing affordability, which has resulted from an increase in the number of buyers and users of electronic products. As technology has become more affordable, the rate of technological replacement has inevitably increased. On the market, smaller sizes, newer designs, and more user-friendly electronic products are available. The majority of products are either upgraded with new features or become obsolete in the environment, while inoperable and out-of-date products are discarded.
The International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Vienna; the United Nations University (UNU), Tokyo; and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Geneva jointly issued a report titled “The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017,” which stated that the total amount of e-waste generated in 2016 was 44.7 million metric tons. According to the report, the 2016 figures represent an 8 percent increase (of 3.3 million metric tons) over 2014. The continuous increase in e-waste generation is disproportional to the amount recycled, with only about 20% of e-waste recycled through appropriate channels. The combined weight of gadgets like mobile phones, television sets, refrigerators, computers, and solar panels is equivalent to
1.23 million fully loaded 18-wheel 40-ton trucks If this figure isn’t alarming enough, analysts predict that e-waste will increase by 17% to 52.2 million metric tons by 2021. The general public has long been aware of the dangers presented by abandoned gadgets to people; nevertheless, there is a potential economic value for components in discarded electronics that may be repurposed (Perkins, Drisse, Nxele, & Sly, 2014).
Given the amounts of garbage created or placed on sites that must be sorted through, destroyed, and recycled in an appropriate manner, e-waste recycling is capital demanding. Recycling is managed on a local scale, however, in dumpsites in underdeveloped nations such as Guiyu and Agbobloshie in China and Ghana, respectively, by people and families that live in close proximity to the dumpsite. Their decision to locate near dumpsites is explained by the commercial activity on the sites, which involves the mining of copper wiring from electrical devices (Setiawan & Hapsari, 2018). The international community has offered guidelines on e-waste management to address difficulties and hazards associated with e-waste, particularly in poor nations. Countries most impacted by electronic waste dumping have been pushed to establish and implement legal regulations based on the 1989 Basel Convention, which governs the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. This international body implements the existing agreement and policy document in charge of e-waste recovery, recycling, and disposal.
Twelve African nations met in Mali in January 1991 to establish a pact prohibiting the import of dangerous radioactive waste and byproducts. This agreement advocated for a ban on imports into Africa, as well as the control of transboundary movement and the management of hazardous wastes, which was a considerably stronger position than the Basel Convention.
On a national level, Ghana‘s parliament enacted the Hazardous and Electronic Waste Control Management Bill, 2016 into law in July 2016. Act 917 empowers the government to regulate, manage, and dispose of hazardous electrical and electronic waste. This regulation is intended to supplement the previously mentioned two major international and regional treaties.
Electronic trash (E-waste) products are complex amalgams of polymers and chemicals, the majority of which can have negative impacts on both human and natural environments, particularly in rising countries that have been identified as global e-waste dumpsites (Leung, Duzgoren-Aydin, Cheung, & Wong, 2008). Improper e-waste recycling process handling is connected with the emission of chemicals that can be harmful to human health. These health consequences may affect not just those directly participating in these e-waste operations, but also vulnerable populations nearby. Agbogbloshie near Accra, Ghana, is home to the world’s largest e-waste dumpsite, which receives over 150,000 tonnes of e-waste each year. Managing e-waste is a major problem in many nations, including Ghana. Because of the dangers associated with e-waste, it should be addressed front on.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The dangers that e-waste poses to the environment have been a source of concern for the international community in recent decades, As a result, Japan, the United States (US), the European Union (EU), and other established industrialized countries attempted to create a legislative framework for electronic trash while creating electronic waste retrieval and recycling systems. Nonetheless, several developed nations lacked the necessary ability to handle the volume of electronic and electrical waste they create (White, 2008). As a result, these nations export their Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) or E-waste to developing countries where security, health, and environmental restrictions are inadequate (Olowu, 2012).
In the twenty-first century, the globe would be impossible to exist without Electronic and Electrical Equipment (EEE). With this rising desire for electrical and electronic items, along with rapid innovation and shorter product lifespan, e-waste is a developing waste type. The increase in dumping has raised worries about the waste’s potential impact on the environment and human health (UNEP, 2015).
According to the Global E-waste Monitor (2017), emerging nations’ electronic trash output has quadrupled in the previous decade due to population expansion, urbanization, economic growth, and lifestyle preferences. Waste from electronic components may be divided into two categories: non-biodegradable hardware and chemical compounds that are dangerous to human health in the environment. The rate at which global trash quantities are increasing poses a major threat to human and environmental survival (Setiawan & Hapsari, 2018).
The Agbogbloshie e-waste dumpsite in Ghana is the outcome of the world’s rising desire for new and sophisticated electronic equipment, which leads to the disposal of outdated technology. A considerable amount of this electronic trash is transferred from the West, often illegally, to poor nations like Ghana. In light of this, a study of this kind is necessary to highlight the extent to which the global e-waste problem is negatively affecting the Ghanaian ecosystem, as well as the workers and residents in and around the Agbogbloshie e-waste dumpsite, who are both perpetrators and victims of this lingering problem.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The primary aim of this research is to investigate the global environmental hazard of E-waste on human security. Specifically, the study will;
- Investigate whether relevantGhanaian authorities made anyeffort in implementingthe key international convention on e-waste, the Basel Convention and managingthe growingmenaceofe-wasteinthe country.
- To investigate the current situation of the e-waste problem at the Agbogbloshie e-waste dumpsite.
- To investigate the effect global hazard of e-waste has had on the people atAgbogbloshie e-wastedumpsite anditsimmediate environs.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following questions guide this study;
- Did relevantGhanaian authorities made any effort in implementingthe key international convention on e-waste, the Basel Convention and managingthe growingmenaceofe-wasteinthe country?
- What is the current situation of the e-waste problem at the Agbogbloshie e-waste dumpsite?
- What effect has global hazard of e-waste had on the people atAgbogbloshie e-wastedumpsite anditsimmediate environs?
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study will be significant to the government as it will bring to the fore the issue of e- waste and its effects on human security. It will allow for the government to take the necessary steps to look into the subject matter. It will also be beneficial to other researchers who want to take another perspective on the subject matter.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This research will focus on the rising worldwide danger of electronic trash to scrap merchants and residents at Ghana’s largest dumpsite in Agbogbloshie. It also will delve into the initiatives implemented by the government to address this issue since 2016 until the present. Hence the enrolled respondents for this study will be obtained from the residents in Agbogbloshie, Ghana.
1.7 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study was limited as a result of financial and time constraints faced by the researcher.
1.8 DEFINITION OF TERMS
- E-WASTE:E-waste is electronic products that are unwanted, not working, and nearing or at the end of their “useful life”.
- HUMAN SECURITY:Human security is an emerging paradigm for understanding global vulnerabilities whose proponents challenge the traditional notion of national security through military security by arguing that the proper referent for security should be at the human rather than national level.