University project helps to save lives in Nigeria’s toxic e-waste epidemic
Published Thursday 5th August 2010
Academics from The University of Northampton have been undertaking vital work in Nigeria to educate electronic waste scavengers on the hazards of what they are doing.
Dr Margaret Bates, School of Science and Technology, and Professor Simon Denny, Northampton Business School, along with colleagues across the University, have delivered workshops in Nigeria to 80 delegates ranging from scavengers from e-waste dumps to NESREA (National Environmental Standards & Regulation Enforcement Agency). This has been in partnership with the Basel Convention Regional Coordinating Centre for Africa, based at Nigeria's University of Ibadan. Dr Bates explains further:
"Nigeria is fast becoming a digital dump for electronic wastes in the form of old computers, old TV sets, second-hand mobile phones and other discarded items from Europe and the USA. This is toxic waste; piles of computers contain hazardous substances which are harmful to both people and the environment.
"Hundreds of people make their livings from looking for precious metal components for recycling within the e-waste, burning the waste to get to them which releases carcinogenic substances. They are literally killing themselves to get to the 'usable' bits from the e-waste.
"The University of Northampton received funding from the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) via the British Council for a two year project with our partner university in Nigeria Ibadan and project partner organisations to educate the informal sector about how to break down the waste safely, how to identify what is of value and to provide them with the equipment to do this."
The University of Northampton worked with Hewlett Packard, one of the world's leading technology companies, on delivery of the workshops and Reclaimed Appliances Ltd, a Lincolnshire based electrical and electronic re-use and recycling company, who provided the much needed safety equipment for the delegates; boots, gloves, high visibility jackets and dust masks. Learning Light Ltd, who specialise in interactive learning, provided DVDs to demonstrate how to break down electronics safely.
Dr Bates added:
"Our project has been so successful that the delegates would like us to come back and do more and Hewlett Packard have offered to fund more safety equipment. The University of Northampton is now seeking further funding to continue the work we are doing out there."
From the University project team's work in Nigeria, they were asked to contribute to national waste regulations for the country and Dr Bates was made a Chief 'Iyalode of e-waste'. One delegate, Prince Ikechukwu Odunze; Oje-Alaba, commented:
"I would like this programme to continue so that this gospel will spread like a wild fire throughout Nigeria and West Africa and also make it possible for participants to study with The University of Northampton for more studies forward to evaluate the project..."
Notes to Editors
- It is estimated that about 400,000 second hand computers arrive at the Lagos ports monthly. 75% of these are obsolete and unserviceable. Source: 9 March 2009, Toxic e-waste in Nigeria, africafiles.org http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=20425
- Hazardous waste in the e-waste includes lead, arsenic, antimony trioxide, polybrominated flame retardants, selenium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt and mercury. Source: 19 December 2006, Nigeria fears e-waste 'toxic legacy', bbc.co.uk http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pagetools/print/news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/6193625.stm
- This document is an output from the EPA Project funded by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) for the benefit of the UK and African Further and Higher Education Sectors. The views expressed are not necessarily those of BIS, nor British Council.
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