By Sara Mosleh Moreno
The gases from burning heavy metals are highly toxic and make Agbogbloshie the most polluted place on the planet. Lead, mercury or cadmium are some of the substances that can be found in the atmosphere of a neighborhood full of life and shops.
Although the cross-border shipment of technological waste is prohibited by international agreement, unscrupulous entrepreneurs bypass this ban and label these products as second-hand items or even camouflage them among loads of new equipment. In fact, Ghana is one of the largest importers of second-hand electronic equipment with 215,000 tons per year.
This waste comes from Western countries, especially from Eastern Europe and the United States. There, fashion or the rapid uselessness of electronic devices mean that hundreds of household appliances and digital devices are deposited every day in containers that will end up in landfills in the poorest countries.
But this continuous generation of waste is not the result of chance, but of a production system based on incessant consumption and the idea of "use and throw away." Manufacturers, to obtain more benefits, shorten the life cycle of the product by scheduling the end of its usefulness. This strategy used by companies like Apple or Phillips is the so-called programmed obsolescence and is the cause that most of our digital devices stop working after one or two years.
When the consumer wants to repair his mobile phone, printer or computer, he is surprised that either there are no spare parts or the repair is more expensive than buying a new computer. In this way, companies force the customer to throw away their "old" device and buy a new one.
This trading strategy began with the industrial revolution, when the mass production system began. Manufacturers realized that if they made good, long-lasting products, people would stop buying for lack of need and therefore their profits would cease. In this way, companies programmed all their products to stop working after a short period of time.
The Agbogbloshie landfill is just one of the serious consequences of this "use and disposal" of Western culture. We live on a finite planet with limited resources where this linear production system cannot continue indefinitely in time without causing a catastrophe. Aware of this, young companies and people around the world have started a movement against planned obsolescence, in order to produce efficient, sustainable and respectful products with the environment and people.
Center for Solidarity Collaborations