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Final training and e-waste recycling

On Tuesday Nancy and I finished up training with some of the Africa ICT Right (the non-profit we’re working with here in Ghana) volunteers we’re working with while Dave, Daniel and Beth Lynn went down to the port to handle transactions there to move the process of the release of the computers along.

In the afternoon, we all met up about a half hour north at City Waste Group, an e-waste recycling organization. Ghana has a problem with e-waste, as documented in this Frontline World report: Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground. Shippers bring in junk from Europe and the Americas to be dumped at Agbogbloshie, near Accra, where workers (including children), sort through the waste, burning some to collect the precious metals from it which they can then sell to make a living. There are serious health implications of this work, including direct exposure to lead and other highly toxic chemical fumes that come from burning plastic electronics.

Computer Reach is conscious of the problem and with all their work around the world works to confirm that all of the computers shipped have an end of life agreement in place with a reputable recycling company. The research had been done prior to coming out to City Waste to confirm they were a legitimate recycling organization, but an on site visit to show good faith on both ends to make sure the computers we send over get properly recycled was worth a trip up. When we arrived they had just come back from a tour around Agbogbloshie itself with representatives from a couple eco-friendly recycling firms in Europe who they’ve partnered with to do retrieval of precious metals in proper facilities so the smelting is done there instead of on the streets in Ghana. The recycling firm does a lot of public service to teach workers at Agbogbloshie how to properly separate materials for sale to them so they can greatly reduce their risk and get more money for the material they’re selling. They also work with families to get the children working there in to school rather than working there. The recycling center itself buys properly separated material from the workers which it can sell directly or send to their processors in Europe.

They seem to turn things around pretty quickly, they have some piles outside that were scheduled for pickup:

And inside they have bins with different components that are then shipped off to vendors and eco-friendly partners:

The visit was an inspiring one. I’m very glad that there is a legitimate recycling plan for the computers. Their field coordinator was also kind enough to set up a coffee break for us while we were there.

The rest of the day was uneventful. We headed back to the hotel as the sun was setting, we got ourselves sorted food-wise and I spent probably 45 minutes getting my luggage packed so that everything would fit into my suitcase and the gifts I bought were properly secured. I really hope my careful packing work isn’t undone by a careless inspector like it was coming out here, and I really really hope my luggage makes it home with me.

Today Beth Lynn and Nancy headed up to Ashesi University College to meet with one of our contacts and tour some of the surrounding schools for the possibility of deploying computers there during a later trip. I’ll be going along with Dave and Daniel to the port to make sure the loading of computers into the truck goes well so they can be put into storage for now (the non-profit here on the ground in Ghana will be handling some of the deployments we don’t finish). Tonight at 9:05PM my flight leaves Accra and I’ll be on my way back home to beautiful San Francisco! The rest of the team flies home tomorrow night.