'Move to Trash', is an operation we perform every day on our computer desktop when something does not interest us. But what happens when the virtual becomes real? Where do our unused or broken computers go? The suburb of Agbogbloshie, in the Ghana's capital, has in recent years become a real dump of computers and electronic waste from Europe and the United States.
The growing demand for ultra modern mobile, flat screen tv and super-fast computers create hundreds of tons of e-waste full of toxic chemical substances that, instead of being safely recycled, gets dumped every month in poor developing countries. The disposal of electronic goods in the north is a costly affair subject to strict environmental laws, but in West African countries like Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast, there are no such regulations: toxic metals (lead, beryllium, cadmium and mercury) are released in dangerous quantities and damage to human health and the environment caused by this new digital divide are relevant.
But how all this happening? Traders bypass international laws by labelling the equipment as second-hand goods or charity donations, but in reality as much as 80% of the computers sent to Ghana are broken or unusable and end up in the landfill. Here, unprotected workers, many of them children, dismantle the equipment in search of metals that can be sold and are constantly exposed to hazardous chemicals.