Thousands of tonnes of e-waste sent to Nigeria illegally each year

At least 15,400 metric tonnes of broken electronic equipment was sent to Nigeria between 2015 and 2016 in violation of international law, a two-year study has found.


LCD TVs and flat panel monitors made up the largest quantity of the e-waste by weight, with approximately three-quarters of the equipment originating from European ports.

The UK and Germany were the biggest culprits, responsible for approximately 20% each, with the majority hidden in vehicles that avoid inspections and functionality tests.

This is despite the exporting of non-functioning used electrical and electronic equipment (UEEE) deemed illegal under the Basel Convention, with none of those involved found to have incurred any punishment over the two-year period.

Co-authored by the Basel Convention Coordinating Centre for Africa (BCCC Africa), the study argues that regulations in both Nigeria and the EU must be strengthened to address the issue.

“The importation of UEEE in vehicles serves to avoid inspections by the regulatory agency, resulting in many tonnes of e-waste arriving illegally into Nigeria,” said BCCC Africa director, professor Percy Onianwa.

“UEEE containing hazardous substances – e.g. mercury and (H)CFCs — are among the products with the highest non-functionality rates and the highest import volumes.”

A total of 60,000 metric tonnes of working and broken UEEE was found to have entered Nigeria in both 2015 and 2016 – enough to fill a 10 kilometre line of full-loaded 36-tonne 18-wheel trucks.

This volume violates both the Basel Convention and the EU’s Waste Shipment Directive, with the actual amount of broken equipment likely to be higher than estimated.

Almost 70% of the UEEE arrived in vehicles destined for the country’s second hand auto market, with the United Nations University (UNU) helping BCCC Africa carry out the study as part of the Solving the E-waste Problem Initiative.

UNU’s SCYCLE Programme director, Ruediger Kuehr, said: “Next steps should involve making certificates of functionality testing an obligatory part of the requirements for transporting used electronic and electrical equipment.”


Image credit: iStock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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