Education Will Make Recycling Electrical Waste Safer

Published by Stephen Roper on Tagged Education

Many people in third world countries make a living searching through dumps for electronic equipment that is thrown away by people in the western world. Recycling our waste electrical equipment is a dirty job that only the poorest and least educated people in the world have to do.

Although it is now illegal for developed countries to ship their e-waste out of their country it still happens. Even when electrical items are exported legally the thousands of workers who sift through and dismantle it are unlikely to have had very little training at all.

Many health problems can occur from dismantling electronic waste including chest and lung problems which come from burning plastic cables to gain access to the copper inside. Some of the chemicals released into the air may even be carcinogenic.

Educating workers in how to retrieve valuable materials needed for them to live without damaging their health and that of their communities is essential.

Director of the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre For Training and Technology Transfer for the African Region, Professor Oladele Osibanjo in Lagos, Nigeria is trying to find methods of training workings who search the electrical dumps even though many are completely illiterate.

Osibanjo approached UK company Learning Light to see if their e-learning materials could provide some training for waste workers in Lagos. The only way they could train the workers was by showing them pictures of the illnesses that can be contracted because of pollution.

A workshop was set up in Lagos and around 150 people attended including waste workers and representatives from e-waste companies in the area. Many admitted that they did not know that there were health risks from electrical waste.

Learning Light is now developing more modules that teach waste workers how to correctly dismantle an inkjet printer, PC or laptop. More modules are also being created for a large variety of electronic equipment.

Osibanjo is now working towards creating a distance learning programme that will lead to a qualification in Nigeria for many people who may not have even finished school. He also hopes to get approval from the Nigerian government so many more lives will not be put on the line from our electronic waste in the future.

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