The market for secondhand electronic materials in Nigeria is thriving. These materials, either working or not, are encouraged as imports from other countries with designated dumping ports around the country (mostly Lagos), where people dig through these items, break them apart and strip them for valuable metals like gold, silver, palladium and others. This process, according to a report by Aljazeera, is known as ‘Urban Mining‘. However, the trouble with Urban Mining is not only that it compounds and adds to the national waste problem, the toxins released from the process also leads to environmental degradation and human rights violations: the toxins released during, and the heavy metals left behind after the process, release toxic waste that ends up polluting the air, soil, and water, and could potentially kill people living nearby.
Since the import of these electronics became illegal in 2002, the importers and foreign exporters have devised creative ways to bring them in. According to a report conducted by United Nations University, over 70% of the e-waste imported between 2015 and 2016 came from Europe. The items were smuggled through the containers of used cars sent into the country by taking up all spare space left after the cars have been uploaded. According to the study, around 19 percent of the electronics were not functional, which is an indication that the exporters were aware that these were waste materials and have purposely sent their toxic waste into Nigeria. The remaining were brought in shipping containers which were declared in official paperwork to be personal/household goods.
The report also indicated that many of the electronics discarded contain hazardous materials that like most e-waste, are highly flammable and contain materials like mercury, lead, cadmium that could expose the importers, the handlers and the people who live around the environment to health risks. Not to mention the soil and water pollution that could harm the country at large through the cultivated crops and could potentially affect the sea life.
Sure, Nigeria needs stricter laws and better law enforcement policies, but the countries these exports are coming from also need to regulate what happens with their waste too. If they’re not dumped in Nigeria, its going to be some other developing country, or an undeserving desert somewhere. Lets hope international policies get catch up to this problem soon.
Featured Image Credits: Web/aljazeera
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