Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kids of Sodom - eWaste in Ghana

This year's UNICEF picture of the year is by German photographer Kai Loeffelbein. The series "Kids of Sodom" depicts life at the other end of the spectrum of consumer electronics.

If eWaste isn't just tossed into a landfill or a nearby ocean, it is collected for recycling. This sounds good, but countries are not required to recycle their electronic trash in their own country. Despite some country specific regulations or global agreements like the Basel Convention (which is not signed or ratified by all countries) this is common practice.

So each year, hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous eWaste are shipped in containers to places like Accra in Ghana. In those countries, large slum cities exist where people try to harvest valuable materials with the poorest of means and absolutely no health protection.

Loeffelbein's photo series shows this kind of life. We are not only exploiting the poor countries for rare materials, but also toss the broken toys right back at them. With more stringent and mandatory regulation we could stop externalizing the true cost of our digital life style and achieve a more viable relationship to innovative electronics.

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