The alarming increase of electronic waste (e-waste) in Nigeria

Did you know that an estimate of 500 containers each carrying about 500,000 used computers and other electronic equipment, enter the country’s ports every month from the United States, Europe and Asia? 

Electronic waste, commonly known as e-waste consists of products like computers, monitors, printers, television sets, mobile phones, iPods, digital cameras, irons, microwave ovens, etc. E-waste is regarded to be the fastest-growing form of waste in many developing countries, and most people probably own several of obsolete devices that give rise to e-waste.

The inflow of second-hand goods is fast becoming a source of concern to many Nigerians. The manner in which different second-hand items are being shipped into the country gives the impression that Nigeria is a dumping ground for products not needed in foreign countries.

It is worrisome that a lot of Nigerians are unaware of the dangers inherent in careless handling of e-waste. It is, therefore, common to see both young and old scavengers searching through solid waste heaps at dumpsites without caring about the health implications of such dangerous means of livelihood.

 Although some of the components in electronics can be removed and recycled such as glass, steel, aluminium and copper they still contain harmful toxic metals which are even difficult to separate including lead, arsenic, barium, selenium, cadmium and mercury. If the products are not recycled properly, the chemicals inevitably will make their way from landfills and incinerators into the soil, air and water thereby having a negative effect on the environment and on human health.

It is, therefore, appropriate to discuss alternative ways of managing e-waste, particularly in healthier and safer ways, through reducing, reusing and recycling (3Rs).

Written by Abimbola Ajayi