The relentless evolution of electronics means that consumers are constantly upgrading to the latest and greatest – but all of those dated flip phones and CRT monitors have to go somewhere. Australian filmmaker David Fedele spent some time in the world’s second largest e-waste dump in Agbogbloshie, Ghana (the largest is in China) to create a film that shows firsthand how awful the electronic graveyard really is. Over 215,000 tons of e-waste is imported to Ghana each year where scavengers pick apart and burn the gadgets to get to the metal inside, creating an endless toxic cloud that hangs over the environment.
Each day loads of waste are brought into the site where workers extract the aluminum, copper and other metals so that they can be resold on the market. The effort is collaborative: small teams of children burn the piles of electronics and then a second group takes the picked metal to traders. The leftover pieces are simply discarded, which means that the site is constantly increasing in toxicity, and the resulting cloud rarely has time to dissipate. This makes Agbogbloshie one of the most polluted places in the world.
Most of the electronics come from Europe, but some comes from inside Ghana and other parts of Africa. The dump provides a source of livelihood for some locals, so tearing it down would eliminate an important source of money for the people who live there. But fighting e-waste through recycling and helping to renew the failing agricultural industry could help create a new, sustainable system for the people. The film, called E-Wasteland, does not feature dialogue or narration – instead it tells the visual story of e-waste and peels back the curtain on the global waste system. Fedele spent three months filming among the workers, and the film has won numerous awards.