E-Scrap News

Portrayal of Agbogbloshie disputed again

Ghana’s infamous Agbogbloshie area has become “an international byword for ‘African e-waste dumping,'” journalist Adam Minter writes in a recent article.

But, Minter states, the district in the middle of Ghana’s capital is home to a Pepsi bottling plant, small manufacturers and markets for a variety of goods, in addition to the recycling area.

“Having visited informal e-scrap processing sites in China and India, I know what to expect,” Minter writes in his article in Scrap magazine, a publication put out by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. “The first thing I notice in Agbogbloshie’s recycling zone, however, is what’s missing. I don’t see many electronic products or parts, certainly not enough to qualify it as one of the world’s top dump sites.”

That story is one of two articles in the past week that dispute mainstream media depictions of the Ghana district. The other comes from Josh Lepawsky, associate professor of geography at Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland, who recently wrote a story in the academic-oriented media outlet The Conversation asserting the Agbogbloshie story is more complex than is typically portrayed.

Lepawsky also argues a solution needs to be found “upstream” in the way electronics are made and consumed.

The writings from Minter and Lepawsky echo other voices that have attempted to reframe the Agbogbloshie conversation.

In recent years, a wide range of publications such as The Atlantic and Wired have published stories that portray Agbogbloshie as a dumping ground for the world’s discarded and exported scrap electronics.

In his article last week, Lepawsky writes infrastructure is needed to appropriately manage e-scrap discarded domestically in Ghana but that the larger media conversation has focused primarily on the movement of material from wealthier nations.

“Better than bans on exporting discarded electronics or improving collect-destroy-recycle systems would be to enhance systems of repair and reuse,” he writes.

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