Electronic Waste: An 'Untapped Treasure' in Ghana

Brian Fleischer
May 29, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018


Fig. 1: E-waste dumpsite at Agbogbloshie, Accra. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In 2013, the United Nation's "Solving the E-Waste Problem" initiative (Step), which was set up in 2007 to tackle the world's growing crisis of electronic waste, warned that the global volume of such refuse is set to grow by 33% over a four year period. [1] It is estimated that the total amount e-waste generated in 2014 was 41.8 million metric tonnes (Mt). It is forecasted to increase to 50 Mt of e-waste in 2018. [2] As it stands, Ghana imports 40,000 tonnes of electronic waste each year and runs the largest recycle industry on the African continent. With this inflow of waste into the country, several communities at the receiving end are displaced and face serious health implications. One such is the community of Agbogbloshie, a suburb of Accra, the capital of Ghana. Communities like Agbogbloshie, have to deal with electronic waste and the potentially radioactive waste alike with no expertise on how to handle them and governmental neglect. They are victims of the negative externalities associated with the boom of the electrical industry.

Recycling Electronic Waste

Electronic waste management is a growing problem in Ghana. [3] These electronic wastes are generated from various fields of industry especially in electricity generation and in the medical field. Most electronic wastes are ones that were not generated in Ghana but have been disposed there from other more developed western countries.

However, amidst the debacle of a problem stands an unusual and potentially hopeful solution. Students from the Ashesi University College in Ghana have spearheaded an ingenious way to harness the power of communities like Agbogbloshie in combatting this issue. Fig. 1 shows an e-waste dumpsites in Agbogbloshie, Accra. Joseph Awuah Darko, current junior at Ashesi University College and some of his peers came together to establish the Agbogblo Shine Initiative. Their initiative is to convert these waste products into furniture and artwork. By so doing, they are bridging the disconnect between these communities and their culture on one hand and the foreign materials on the other hand. This not only creates an avenue for creativity and culture to bring a solution to a growing problem but also provides jobs for many members of such affected communities. With the raw materials in abundance, this business venture could be one answer to several questions.


That said, we must also acknowledge that this initiative, however worthy, comes with its own downsides. For one, there are several health implications associated with the processing of such electronic waste. The actual processing of such wastes also usually involves their burning which releases toxic waste into the environment. And finally, since this is a relatively new initiative, it is not yet as lucrative. However, there is the potential for the recycling of electronic waste to be a booming business venture in Ghana.

© Brian Fleischer. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] A. Hirsch, "This Is Not a Good Place to Live: Inside Ghana's Dump for Electronic Waste," The Guardian, 14 Dec 13.

[2] C. P. Baldé et al., "The Global E-Waste Monitor 2014: Quantitites, Flows, and Resources," United Nations University, 2014.

[3] E. O. Darko and J. J. Fletcher, "National Waste Management Infrastructure in Ghana," J. Radiol. Prot. 18, 293 (1998).