Burn To Earn – Agbobloshie
One of the biggest e-waste refuse dumps in West Africa and possibly of the whole world lies in Agbobloshie. Everyday Ibrahim and his crew are welcomed by the brusque conditions of the refuse dump where they send their days working hard, hustling to provide for their families. These young miners go on a daily refuse dive in search of copper which can be found in cables of several different appliances such as refrigerators. Once the cables are found, the young men must expose the copper by burning the plastic enwrapping their precious metal. To cool down the metal they then use sachet water bought from street sellers who have also found their way to make a living at Agbobloshie. Ibrahim earns 100GHC for every 10lbs of copper he sells, which is about 20USD. The copper is sold to the middle men that then take it to Tema Harbor to be shipped away. Despite the adverse work conditions the young men are grateful to have a way to provide for their families and greet every day with smiles of happiness.
Exposing copper from wires of appliances requires skillful workers. Ibrahim and Moses manipulate the tangled up wires with a long rod to ensure that the copper doesn’t get spoiled. This rod is also the only safety measure preventing the men from getting licked by the hot flames and inhaling the toxic fumes. Flames of electric green, blue and purple reduce white plastic that was once hugging the copper, into mere black residue.
The health of more than 250,000 residents of Agbobloshie and surrounding areas are affected. The fumes released from burning plastics contain several different chemicals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic which have been associated with respiratory illnesses and cancer. Environmental assessments of the soil have revealed dangerously high levels of lead of more than 18,000ppm (parts per million) which is 45x higher than the level considered hazardous according to the Environmental Protection Agency standards of the USA.