Better E-Waste Handling Helps Environment and Health




This is Scientific American 60-Second Earth. I'm David Biello. Your minute begins now.
The town of Agbogbloshie in the West African country of Ghana has been called a digital dumping ground.
Millions of tons of discarded electronics wind up there annually, so people can try to recover anything of value.
It's therefore one of the most polluted places in the world,
because workers burn plastic coatings to get at the metal in the guts of gadgets.
But Agbogbloshie is about to get cleaner, thanks to the opening of a new facility for handling such e-waste.
Four machines that can strip plastic will prevent the burning that produces hazardous smoke.
E-waste is a large and growing problem thanks to the large and growing appetite for electronics.
Responsible recyclers exist, but too much e-waste still ends up being exported and improperly disposed of in places like Agbogbloshie.
The worst e-waste remains batteries.
The most common type, lead-acid batteries, are classified as toxic waste once used.
And more and more rechargeable lithium ion batteries are finding their way into landfills and other unsafe disposal sites.
But the problem of e-waste can be solved with proper recycling.
The new machines in Agbogbloshie should be able to strip enough wires to produce about 10 metric tons of copper a month.
That's good news for livelihoods and lungs of local residents.
Your minute is up, for Scientific American 60-Second Earth. I'm David Biello.