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Africa: EU Parliamentarian Leads Campaign Against E-Waste to Continent

A Belgian parliamentarian is campaigning against the export of illegal goods to developing countries.


He has resolved to specifically lobby the Belgian and Flemish Parliament to stop the export of e-waste (electronic waste) to developing countries by strengthening the inspection power in the European harbours.


Rudi Daems, a member of the Flemish parliament in Belgium in the North of Western Europe has for over two years been researching into illegal export of all kinds of waste to developing countries in Asia and Africa.


During a meeting with media in Accra, Mr. Daems said, "My aim is not to prohibit the export of second hand goods to Africa or Asia. But the condition has to be that these goods are 100% re-usable and that afterwards they are recycled and treated in an environmentally friendly way."


He bemoaned that a lot of the electronic goods such as computers and television sets that are transported under the name of second hand or personal goods, end up in dumping sites, notably Agbobloshie in Accra.


The Basel Convention on hazardous and other waste adopted in 1989 and entered into force in 1992, obliges member countries to ensure that hazardous waste are managed are disposed of in an environmentally sound manner.


Ghana acceded to it in 2003. The European Union also adopted a European directive on electronic goods that requires producers to set up systems and finance for the collection and treatment of e-waste.


Another EU directive says that the export of electronic materials to developing countries is allowed on condition that these electronic goods can be re-used.


There also has to be an administrative procedure of clearance in the country of departure as well as in the country of destination.


In spite of the above regulations, only 25% of all electronic goods are being collected through official means. Seventy-five percent take other routes to developing countries, including dumping, shredding and export. These legislations are needed since most of the electronic goods contain toxic materials such as heavy metals, acids, CFC's and brominated flame retardants among others.


The burning of these e-wastes sets free dioxins, which are extremely dangerous for human health. Therefore, recycling and treatment of these materials have to happen under very strict environmental conditions.


A report by Greenpeace states that e-waste is currently among the fastest growing waste streams across the world because of the exponential growth in the use of electronic equipment, especially computers.


The research revealed that some of the e-waste arriving in Ghana contain toxic metals including lead in quantities as much as one hundred times above levels found in uncontaminated soil and sediment samples.


Some of these substances also contain phthalates which is known to interfere with sexual reproduction, besides a high level of chlorinated dioxins known to promote cancer.


The danger is that many children engaged in collecting, dismantling and assembling the e-waste do not wear any protective equipment and are exposed daily to lethal doses of hazardous chemicals like mercury and lead.


E-waste dumping has serious repercussions for the country since the waste products are dismantled on the banks of the lagoon and other water bodies and when it rains the toxic chemicals are flushed into the water bodies.


Mr. Daems noted that although some livelihoods depend on e-waste, government should act to implement existing regulations and introduce stringent laws to curb the uncontrolled importation of e-waste.


"My heart bleeds when I see what is happening in Asia and Africa. It is unacceptable from health and environmental view point. I feel guilty as a western European and we must begin to do something about it," he stressed.


He stated the need for government to strengthen the inspection power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority.


Already, through his campaign, he has managed to trace some illegal containers from Antwerp, main port of Belgium destined to Tema in Ghana with the cooperation of the Belgian EPA.


According to him, a few containers were stopped (on the vessel Julie Delmas) and sent back to the producer of the e-waste in Germany.


He said other containers with suspicious content on the vessel MSC Suez could not be stopped, because they had left the harbour when the official transport documents were delivered to customs and EPA.


However, as at Tuesday afternoon when he met the press, authorities, namely, CEPS, EPA and National Security had refused to open the containers because the shipping company MSC Suez refused to be present at the inspection.

Source: Ama Achiaa Amankwah,
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