Jul 05

5th of July 2017

STRADE publishes draft concepts for a data and konwledge information system

Draft concepts for a data and knowledge information system on mineral mining and trade and related environmental and socio-economic issues were published in three parts: Part I introduces the concept, Part II presents the concept for raw materials profiles; Part III shares the concept for country-specific profiles.

May 17

17th of May 2017

ElmoReL Final Report published with LCA

The ElmoReL final project report, including a life cycle analysis, is now available in German.

Feb 28

28th of February 2017

ElmoReL Final Report published

The ElmoReL final project report is now available in German.

Aug 30

New report from e-Waste Project in Ghana now available

30th of August 2010 by Stefanie Degreif

"Öko-Institut’s report shows that sustainable and safe recycling of hazardous electronic waste in
Ghana requires cooperation with developed countries"
E-waste contains many valuable metals such as gold, silver, palladium, aluminium, steel and copper.
Recovery of aluminium, steel and copper from e-waste is an important livelihood strategy for many poor people in West Africa. However, e-waste also contains many hazardous substances such as lead, cadmium, brominated flame retardants and PVC. Due to a lack of recycling and waste management infrastructure, some of the toxic parts of e-waste can not currently be managed safely in West Africa, and hence cause damage to the environment, and the health of the workers and local communities. In the process, many valuable metals entailed in e-waste are also lost. The results of a project on e-waste recycling in Ghana, carried out by Öko-Institut on behalf of the Inspectorate of the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM-Inspectorate) and the Dutch Recycling Association (NVMP), show how e-waste can be recycled and managed in an environmentally-friendly way by incorporating the informal recycling sector in Ghana.

“E-waste recycling has become a significant industry in Ghana”, says Siddharth Prakash, an expert on social standards and information and communication technologies at Öko-Institut. “Our research suggests that about 100 to 250 million US dollars are generated each year in Ghana by the informal e-waste sector.” According to the report, in the capital Accra alone, approx. 20,000 people are engaged in refurbishing, collecting and recycling e-waste. Overall, the sector sustains – including dependents – up to 200,000 people in the country. Yet the working conditions are extremely poor: the wages are generally below the poverty line, and child labour and working days of up to 12 hours are the order of the day. On top of that there are health hazards because of the toxic fumes and heavy metals. “We have to ensure that the working conditions in the informal recycling sector in Ghana are substantially improved”, emphasizes Prakash. “Due to the use of crude recycling technologies, many important raw materials are permanently lost. Only basic metals such as aluminium, copper and steel are recovered. Fractions
containing precious metals such as gold, silver and palladium are either thrown on the waste disposal sites or burnt with cables and plastic cases”, adds Prakash.

In the study, Öko-Institut has proposed models for a sustainable recycling cooperation of Ghana with industrialised countries: “A partnership, which will be beneficial for all participating countries”, says Andreas Manhart, an expert on sustainable resource efficiency at Öko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology). Ghana can provide a low-cost workforce to effectively and safely collect and sort e-waste, while industrialized countries possess the more modern recycling technology to manage the toxic fractions and recover materials efficiently. If the e-waste is transferred back to the industrialised countries after the first recycling step, the highly efficient refineries there can recover up to 17 precious metals. These are important resources for high-tech industry; the primary extraction of such metals would otherwise involve high costs, environmental problems and political conflicts. Additionally, the hazardous substances can be managed in an environmentally sound way in these countries. Based on the revenues acquired from the partnership, better working conditions and investment in environmental protection and improved recycling
practices can be financed in Ghana. “However the business model cannot be directly applied to all ewaste fractions”, Manhart advises. “Components such as cathode ray tubes and plastic parts can only be properly disposed of at substantial cost. Thus, the development and implementation of regulatory frameworks are indispensable in such cases”, he adds.

The project was embedded in the “e-Waste Africa” project, which is being implemented in the framework of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. Under the umbrella of the Secretariat of the Basel Convention (SBC) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the project aims to contribute towards the elimination of illegal or inappropriate export of e-waste from industrialised countries. Furthermore, the project seeks to research the feasibility of setting up a sustainable e-waste recycling management system in Africa. According to Öko-Institut, in countries like Ghana, not only domestically generated e-waste has to be treated, but also substantial quantities of old appliances that are being imported from industrialised countries, particularly the European Union. Therefore, a pre-requisite for a sustainable e-waste recycling is an effective monitoring system for combating the transboundary trade in e-waste. As even with improved local recycling structures, countries like Ghana will simply be over-burdened by the demands of proper
recycling of these products. In order to improve monitoring of e-waste trade, experts at Öko-Institut are analysing trade statistics and researching the export data of European harbours such as those of Rotterdam and Antwerp. The project is implemented by the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre based in Nigeria and the Basel Convention Regional Centre in Senegal in cooperation with partners including: Öko-Institut, EMPA, IMPEL, VROM-Inspectorate, NVMP, EPA Ghana, UNESCO and the Partnership for Action on Computing Equipment (PACE).

The study Socio-economic assessment and feasibility study on sustainable e-waste management in
Ghana can be downloaded at:
For further information please contact
Siddharth Prakash
Researcher, Sustainable Products & Material Flows Division
Öko-Institut e.V., Freiburg Head Office
Phone: +49-761-45295-44

Andreas Manhart
Researcher, Sustainable Products & Material Flows Division
Öko-Institut e.V., Freiburg Head Office
Phone: +49-89-12590077

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