Month: March 2009

The environmental and human health impacts of Waste: Responses towards environmental justice for Africa Research Series – Part 2

This paper is the second part of a three-part research series exploring toxic waste and transboundary movement of toxic waste from developed to developing countries. Research Series Part 1 traced some of the reasons for the movement of toxic waste from northern to southern countries, focusing especially on waste imports into the African continent. This second part research examines some of the environmental and human health effects of transboundary waste movements and disposal in Africa. It looks at two African case studies to highlight the impacts of waste disposal, especially on local communities. These include Ashanti Goldfields and Anglo American gold mining operations in Tanzania and Thor Chemicals in South Africa. It also examines some civil society responses to achieve local environmental justice in the case of Thor Chemicals. The paper finally examines the impacts of e-waste for African communities in general before concluding. This paper together with Research Series Part 1 builds on Part 3, which will explore solutions to eliminate the production of toxic waste and waste trafficking.

Introduction
The potential for adverse human health and environmental effects of transboundary dumping of toxic (and other) waste in Africa cannot be overemphasised. The solution for industrialised countries for many years has been to export their waste to third world countries which are in greater need of funds and where concern for the health of the population is minimum or non-existent. As noted in Research Series Part 1, developing countries usually have lax environmental regulations. In addition, developing countries are unlikely to have in place standards for the proper design of hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities. The tendency, therefore, is that these wastes will not be disposed of in an environmentally-safe manner. There is, therefore, potential for devastating impacts of hazardous waste on human health and the environment. Despite sixteen years of the Basel Convention (Refer to Research Series Part 1 for more information on the Basel Convention), import of toxic waste especially electronic waste and old ships has actually increased in developing countries. At the ninth Conference of Parties (COP 9) in Bali 2008, the President of the Basel Convention, Rachmat Nadi Witoelar Kartaadipoetra, State Minister for the Environment of Indonesia noted, regarding the negative impacts of hazardous wastes on people and nature, the illegal traffic of such wastes has shown no sign of decreasing and that their generation was actually increasing. As Research Series Part 1 noted, global waste generation was about 12.7 billion tonnes in 2000 and is expected to rise to about 19.0 billion tonnes in 2025 and to about 27.0 billion tonnes in 2050.

Impacts on human health and the environment as a result of transboundary movement of waste, especially toxic waste, continue to be widespread in Africa. The dumping of waste in 2006 by a Dutch company around the port city of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, resulted in the death of 10 people and the hospitalisation of 69 others. Several thousand more suffer lingering effects on their health, their livelihoods and their personal environments. Due to the hazardous and nuclear dumping in Somalia by European companies in 1997, the public faces unfamiliar diseases with an alarming increase of cancer patients, deformed births and other illnesses. Large quantities of obsolete computers, televisions, mobile phones, and other used electronic equipment exported from the United States and Europe to Lagos, Nigeria for “re-use and repair” are dumped and burned near residences in empty lots, roadsides and in swamps creating serious health and environmental contamination from the toxic leachate and smoke. In 2001 in Ghana, multinational Goldfields Ghana Limited, spewed thousands of cubic metres of wastewater contaminated with cyanide and heavy metals into the Asuman River, the main source of drinking water for the Abekoase community and Huni Village and several other hamlets along the river. The river was awash with a large amount of dead fish stock, crabs and other aquatic life floating on the water. Cyanide is known to be lethal to humans in very small quantities, with only a teaspoon of two percent cyanide solution causing death. Because of the number of cyanide spills and accidents, cyanide leach gold mining using large quantities of cyanide to remove gold from ore or crushed rock is creating much controversy. There is growing concern about both the environmental impacts and human health risks of using cyanide as a processing agent.

Ashanti Goldfields and Anglo American gold mining:
The case of health and environmental impacts in Tanzania
Tanzania is blessed with an abundance of mineral resources. In gold alone, Tanzania is estimated to be sitting on top of a US$39 billion treasure and is the third-biggest producer of gold in Africa. Despite this, not only is the country one of the poorest in the world, but local communities living next to multinational mining giants are exposed to the toxic waste spewed from gold mining production. In 2001 in Tanzania, the Geita gold mine a joint venture between Ashanti Goldfields of Ghana (as above) and South Africa’s Anglo-American leaked toxic chemicals (i.e. cyanide) used to extract gold into the local drinking water supply. Villagers noted that pollution from the mines was killing people, livestock, and wildlife due to water contamination. A family of four died after eating a dying rabbit they had caught near the tailings dam. A number of women were also reported to have had miscarriages. In total, about 857 people were displaced by the incident with no compensation. According to preliminary research findings by the Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT), residents in the district are being afflicted by unidentified diseases with unfamiliar symptoms because of the increasing pollutants. Plants that the farmers raise contain up to 9000 times the maximum limit for heavy metals determined by UN agencies. The soil is supposedly more than 6000 times as toxic as the maximum level. Heavy rains also caused mining waste to overflow from the eighty-two-hectare dam into nearby streams. The company made clear it accepted no responsibility for any deaths but ironically wanted to be a good neighbour. More than 4000 people had to leave their homes when the mining operations were started in 2000. However, the pollution caused by Geita gold mine is not an isolated incident in Tanzania. Similar incidents have also occurred for the Bulyanhulu mine which is operated by Barrick Gold Tanzania Limited, which has impacted on the Nyamongo village community.

The devastating impacts of gold mining on Tanzania communities and environment (as above) was also noted in a 2008 Tanzanian report by a Special Rapporteur to the United Nations, Human Rights Council on ‘the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights.’ In accordance with the Resolution of the Commission on Human Rights the appointment of a Special Rapporteur is mandated to carry out field missions with a view to assisting the Governments concerned in finding appropriate solutions to deal with the illicit traffic and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, especially in African and other developing countries. In addition, the report noted with concern the large volume of unregulated small-scale mining that is taking place around the country.

It was noted that both gold and diamonds were using chemicals such as mercury and other dangerous products during the extraction process without the use of proper safety equipment (potentially impacting on workers health). Of concern was that substantial amounts of mercury were obtained by small-scale miners from “unofficial” sources outside the control of the government. Miners also did not have adequate information about the impact mercury could have on their health, including the dangers of the improper disposal of tailings and their effect on their livelihood and the environment. In a number of areas, land, water, plants and livestock were noted to possibly be at a high risk of contamination from mercury and other dangerous wastes. In other cases, a limited number of small-scale miners had some awareness of the dangers of using mercury and other chemicals in the extraction process. However, due to poverty, inadequate information and the lack of a suitable alternative, the miners continued to use mercury and other dangerous products without appropriate safety measures, endangering both the environment and their own health. Large scale gold mining companies did not conduct adequate awareness campaigns to sensitise villagers in their areas about the dangers posed by contact with wastes from their operations, particularly cyanide. The case study above shows how multinationals that set up operations in Africa; dump their toxic by-products of their industrial processes onto local populations who have to suffer the consequences of local resources extraction. Unfortunately, this extracted wealth leaves the local communities who rightfully own local resources. The only things left behind by multinationals for communities are externality costs (i.e. degraded environments and human health effects for present and future generations).

Britain’s Thor Chemicals waste trafficking: The case of South Africa
Background and history
Thor Chemicals Inc of Great Britain (now known as Guernica Chemicals), a mercury processing plant established in 1963, had been accused in 1987 of poisoning workers and putting surrounding South African black communities at risk from mercury exposure. The industry relocated its United Kingdom mercury recycling operation to Cato Ridge in 1987. The risks created by Thor were situated in the Umgeni catchment at Cato Ridge in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The company activity included the production of mercury-based products for local and export markets. Thor engaged in the manufacture and marketing of biocides, textile auxiliaries and metallic organic soaps. The company received mercury waste shipments mainly from the United States, but also from Britain, Singapore and Indonesia. Other areas included Brazil and Italy. As one of the only facilities in the world to form a large-scale mercury reclaiming process, Thor quickly became a target for many international companies facing the predicament of what to do with mercury waste. These exports and pollution caused by Thor were disclosed as part of an investigation of toxic waste trafficking. Thor was receiving shipments as part of their mercury recovery (recycling) program, which included the importation of mercury waste to recover mercury. The company accumulated mercury waste because of increased production of mercuric compounds and spent catalyst waste returned by its customers after use.

Thor committed numerous offences, including the relocation of operations to South Africa to escape health and safety criticisms from United Kingdom authorities. The company neglected to protect workers from the occupational health hazards associated with mercury. Management disregarding company urinary monitoring results that repeatedly indicated excessive levels of mercury in workers and failed to inform workers about the occupational health hazards associated with mercury. Thor also employed casual and untrained workers who were laid off or ‘recycled’ once they became ill. Other offences committed by Thor included environmental racism, contamination of local groundwater and surface water supplies, stockpiling of mercury waste, sludge, and treated waste. The company also exceeded atmospheric emissions beyond existing regulations and used incineration for disposal despite it being abandoned in most countries in the late 1980s. This was due to organic generating air releases (i.e. polychlorinated biphenyl’s and dioxin) and toxic ash disposal. The industry was incinerating hazardous waste without a license. The incinerator did not meet required standards as set out by different government departments, and despite the shutdowns, Thor continued accepting waste which accumulated. The mercury Thor received contained high levels of dangerous organic compounds. At the time there were five mercury-recycling plants in the United States but not one of them would touch waste with an organic content higher than 3%. The mercury waste containing organic contents received by Thor was said to be between 30 and 40% by volume. TCH had been aware of the poor operations of its plant since 1978. In 1987 TCH was issued with an ultimatum by United Kingdom authorities to clean up or face court action and was forced to close its United Kingdom operations. Despite this TCH continued its mercury operations in South Africa. In 1990 even though the then Minister of Environmental Affairs announced that: ‘South Africa will under no circumstances allow that other countries export their hazardous waste to South Africa’, the Minister of Environment bowed to multinational pressure within two months of the first announcement. In a letter addressed to the Managing Director of Thor Chemicals, South Africa, the Minister rescinded the ban placed on the importation of hazardous waste, provided Thor did not accept spent chemicals for recycling, other than those originating from its other subsidiaries.

Environmental and health impacts
The people most affected were workers directly handling mercury. It was reported that they were suffering from a severe nervous disorder induced by mercury poisoning. In 1990 South African NGO Earth Life Africa (ELA) received reports of workers ‘going mad’ at Thor. Many workers died after being exposed to massive quantities of mercury. In April 1990, 29 workers at the Cato Ridge Thor site presented psychiatric and neurological signs and symptoms. Subsequent medical examinations revealed that workers’ had severe mercury poisoning and subsequently three workers died from mercury poisoning. An investigation by the Industrial Health Unit into 80 medical records revealed that 87% of workers had mercury levels that were above the safe limit. In 1992, an Industrial Health Unit report stated that 28% of workers were in danger of permanent health damage due to poisoning. In 1992 a government report revealed that 29 workers had suffered mercury poisoning. In 1998 it was shown that workers had been exposed to mercury levels up to 12 times higher than World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations. Workers were exposed to high mercury levels during employment and suffered symptoms including sexual dysfunction, tiredness, quick tempers and severe memory loss. Mercury was also found 15 kilometers downstream from the plant. Water samples, taken from the Mngeweni River behind Thor and analysed for mercury, were found to contain 1.5 million parts per billion. This was 1500 times higher than the United States limit for “sediment to be declared toxic.” In 1990 samples taken by Greenpeace and local activists revealed equally high levels of mercury. Cattle died due to mercury exposure from drinking water. The stockpiled waste had also contaminated groundwater and soil. Thor exposed the downstream communities that relied on this river for drinking and fishing with mercury poisoning. Rats in the vicinity were found by a zoologist to have seven times more mercury in their bodies than a control group away from the plant.

Responses towards environmental injustice
Early protest in 1990 against Thor Chemicals was brought together by a heterogeneous group of people including black peasant farmers, ecologists, students, unionised workers and the traditional Zulu chief. The South African Chemical Worker’s Industrial Unit (SACWIU) General Secretary noted that the demonstration signalled a powerful ‘rainbow coalition’ between green groups and the trade union movement in South Africa. Publicity both nationally and internationally was employed. The first indication of injustice was revealed when Greenpeace, ELA and the South African NGO Environmental Justice Networking Forum (EJNF) exposed a dispatched shipment of 160 barrels of toxic mercury from its Louisiana plant to South Africa. In South Africa, ELA, EJNF and protesters held vigils at the Cato Ridge plant on 21 February 1993. Similar protests were held at the Borden plant in Louisiana. Such actions had a strong international component with workers and concerned citizens in two countries thousands of miles apart combining forces to send a clear message to multinationals and the international toxic waste trade, that they would not go unchallenged. Worldwide attention focused on the international shipping of toxic waste. The pressure was applied on government by the South African environmental organisations to ban further imports of toxic waste according to the Basel convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. ELA and Greenpeace began compiling information on Thor activities and transgressions and began building a case study against Thor and the SA government. Following the deaths of two workers in 1992 and months of investigation, Thor was criminally charged in Great Britain for culpable homicide and violations of machinery and Occupational Safety Act. In 1994, a claim was filed against Thor in the High Court in London on behalf of the first three victims.

On 24 March 1995, after public outcry of mercury waste poisoning, the government appointed a Commission of Inquiry into Thor Chemicals. The purpose of the commission was to investigate the history as well as the background of the acquisition of the mercury stockpiles on the Thor premises and to report on further utilisation. The formal Department of Manpower inquiry revealed gross negligence. A total of 41 former workers sued Thor for compensation for mercury poisoning. The cases were ultimately settled out of court. Court proceedings against Thor took place from 1992 to 1995. All charges of homicide against three employees were dropped by the State Prosecutor. In the 1990s, compensation claims against the parent company of Thor Chemicals commenced in the English High Court on behalf of 20 workers affected by mercury poisoning. The claims alleged that the English parent company was liable because of its negligent design, transfer, set-up, operation, and supervision and monitoring of an intrinsically hazardous process. In 1997, the claim was settled for £1.3 million. A further 21 claims were commenced by workers from the same factory and settled on the first day of trial. Evidence from abroad against Thor was said to be important for successful outcomes of litigations.

In 1994, after seven workers died at the plant, the South African government prohibited the plant from operating. Since then stockpiled mercury waste has been sitting on the property and has leaked chemicals into the environment. Thor closed it mercury-recycling operations in 1997 but did not remove the stored mercury stored on-site. In 2003, the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs handed over a directive to clean up to the management of Thor. In terms of the directive, Thor would have to take specific steps within a specific time to properly and safely store the waste and to clean up all traces of mercury contamination in the surrounding community.

In June 2004, the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) commissioned consultants to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Treatment and Disposal of Mercury Waste and Decontamination of the Thor Chemical Site in Cato Ridge. NGOs gW and ELA questioned whether incineration would be used in the final disposal phase. According to gW, the wheels of justice with regard to holding Thor accountable and protecting the health of people and the environment has been slow. In 1994 the National Department of Health closed Thor’s recovery plant after tests revealed unacceptable levels of mercury in emissions from the incinerator. In the same year, imports of mercury-containing waste ceased to be imported into the Cato Ridge plant. However, the Cato Ridge site still houses over 3,500 tonnes of mercury-containing waste endangering surrounding communities and the environment. Environmental justice has not been fuller achieved.

Unknown impacts of e-waste on human health and the environment
According to the European Environmental Agency, e-waste is growing faster than any other type of waste, with an annual volume close to 40 million metric tonnes globally. Unfortunately, many communities and workers exposed to toxic waste in developing countries do not know the extent of the impacts of toxic waste to human health and their surrounding environments. A Greenpeace analysis of soil and sediment were taken from two electronic wastes scrap yards in Ghana in 2008 revealed severe contamination with hazardous chemicals. The report ‘Chemical contamination at e-waste recycling and disposal sites in Ghana’, noted with concern the extent of environmental contamination caused by recycling and disposal of e-waste in Ghana from Europe, the United States and Japan. Some of the samples contained toxic metals including lead in quantities as much as one hundred times above levels found in uncontaminated soil and sediment samples. Other chemicals such as phthalates, some which are known to interfere with sexual reproduction, were found in most of the test samples. One sample also contained a high level of chlorinated dioxins, known to promote cancer. There was a concern for Ghanian children’s developmental and reproductive systems, as well as brain development and nervous system impacts.

Other activities that have the potential for impacting on handlers of e-waste include children playing amid heaps of toxic ash from burned electronic waste, unprotected workers brushing cancer-causing carbon black from computer printer cartridges, labourers opening cathode ray tubes containing toxic lead and barium, and widespread burning of plastics that produce dioxins. Other activities include handlers whose work involves sitting by small fires, heating up computer circuit boards to melt the lead-and-tin solder, producing toxic fumes they cannot help but inhale.

Conclusion
Unfortunately, the impacts of toxic waste are usually borne by poor people, whom in addition to already experiencing high levels of poverty that impact on their health; have to deal with added chemical and toxic exposures that further reduce their quality of life. Hazardous waste disposal sites generally expose large populations to toxins. Communities exposed to such toxins are almost always required to also provide evidence for the burdens they are exposed to even though impacts on health may or may not be clearly visible. In fact, many of the impacts to health may take years to fully materialise due to the bioaccumulatory nature of toxic chemicals exposure. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights notes that toxic waste affects the human right to health, both physical and mental, and the human rights to clean water, food, adequate housing and work. Unfortunately, poor communities in Africa do not have the resources to fight against multinational corruption and dumping of toxic waste into communities. It is ultimately up to civil society organisations and governments who must provide the necessary education to inform people about impacts of toxic waste on human health and the environment. In addition, the global community must stop toxic waste and illegal toxic waste disposal. However, what are the solutions to eliminate the production of toxic waste and waste trafficking and disposal for Africa? This will be addressed in final Part 3 of this research series.

Leonard, L. (2009) The environmental and human health impacts of Waste: Responses towards environmental justice for Africa, Research Series – Part 2, Ugandan Parliamentary Briefing, United Kingdom, 13 March.

The environmental and human health impacts of Waste: Responses towards environmental justice for Africa

This paper is the second part of a three-part research series exploring toxic waste and transboundary movement of toxic waste from developed to developing countries. Research Series Part 1 traced some of the reasons for the movement of toxic waste from northern to southern countries, focusing especially on waste imports into the African continent. This second part research examines some of the environmental and human health effects of transboundary waste movements and disposal in Africa. It looks at two African case studies to highlight the impacts of waste disposal, especially on local communities. These include Ashanti Goldfields and Anglo American gold mining operations in Tanzania and Thor Chemicals in South Africa. It also examines some civil society responses to achieve local environmental justice in the case of Thor Chemicals. The paper finally examines the impacts of e-waste for African communities in general before concluding. This paper together with Research Series Part 1 builds on Part 3, which will explore solutions to eliminate the production of toxic waste and waste trafficking.

Introduction
The potential for adverse human health and environmental effects of transboundary dumping of toxic (and other) waste in Africa cannot be overemphasised. The solution for industrialised countries for many years has been to export their waste to third world countries which are in greater need of funds and where concern for the health of the population is minimum or non-existent. As noted in Research Series Part 1, developing countries usually have lax environmental regulations. In addition, developing countries are unlikely to have in place standards for the proper design of hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities. The tendency, therefore, is that these wastes will not be disposed of in an environmentally-safe manner. There is, therefore, potential for devastating impacts of hazardous waste on human health and the environment. Despite sixteen years of the Basel Convention (Refer to Research Series Part 1 for more information on the Basel Convention), import of toxic waste especially electronic waste and old ships has actually increased in developing countries. At the ninth Conference of Parties (COP 9) in Bali 2008, the President of the Basel Convention, Rachmat Nadi Witoelar Kartaadipoetra, State Minister for the Environment of Indonesia noted, regarding the negative impacts of hazardous wastes on people and nature, the illegal traffic of such wastes has shown no sign of decreasing and that their generation was actually increasing. As Research Series Part 1 noted, global waste generation was about 12.7 billion tonnes in 2000 and is expected to rise to about 19.0 billion tonnes in 2025 and to about 27.0 billion tonnes in 2050.

Impacts on human health and the environment as a result of transboundary movement of waste, especially toxic waste, continue to be widespread in Africa. The dumping of waste in 2006 by a Dutch company around the port city of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, resulted in the death of 10 people and the hospitalisation of 69 others. Several thousand more suffer lingering effects on their health, their livelihoods and their personal environments. Due to the hazardous and nuclear dumping in Somalia by European companies in 1997, the public faces unfamiliar diseases with an alarming increase of cancer patients, deformed births and other illnesses. Large quantities of obsolete computers, televisions, mobile phones, and other used electronic equipment exported from the United States and Europe to Lagos, Nigeria for “re-use and repair” are dumped and burned near residences in empty lots, roadsides and in swamps creating serious health and environmental contamination from the toxic leachate and smoke. In 2001 in Ghana, multinational Goldfields Ghana Limited, spewed thousands of cubic metres of wastewater contaminated with cyanide and heavy metals into the Asuman River, the main source of drinking water for the Abekoase community and Huni Village and several other hamlets along the river. The river was awash with a large amount of dead fish stock, crabs and other aquatic life floating on the water. Cyanide is known to be lethal to humans in very small quantities, with only a teaspoon of two percent cyanide solution causing death. Because of the number of cyanide spills and accidents, cyanide leach gold mining using large quantities of cyanide to remove gold from ore or crushed rock is creating much controversy. There is growing concern about both the environmental impacts and human health risks of using cyanide as a processing agent.

Ashanti Goldfields and Anglo American gold mining:
The case of health and environmental impacts in Tanzania
Tanzania is blessed with an abundance of mineral resources. In gold alone, Tanzania is estimated to be sitting on top of a US$39 billion treasure and is the third-biggest producer of gold in Africa. Despite this, not only is the country one of the poorest in the world, but local communities living next to multinational mining giants are exposed to the toxic waste spewed from gold mining production. In 2001 in Tanzania, the Geita gold mine a joint venture between Ashanti Goldfields of Ghana (as above) and South Africa’s Anglo-American leaked toxic chemicals (i.e. cyanide) used to extract gold into the local drinking water supply. Villagers noted that pollution from the mines was killing people, livestock, and wildlife due to water contamination. A family of four died after eating a dying rabbit they had caught near the tailings dam. A number of women were also reported to have had miscarriages. In total, about 857 people were displaced by the incident with no compensation. According to preliminary research findings by the Lawyers Environmental Action Team (LEAT), residents in the district are being afflicted by unidentified diseases with unfamiliar symptoms because of the increasing pollutants. Plants that the farmers raise contain up to 9000 times the maximum limit for heavy metals determined by UN agencies. The soil is supposedly more than 6000 times as toxic as the maximum level. Heavy rains also caused mining waste to overflow from the eighty-two-hectare dam into nearby streams. The company made clear it accepted no responsibility for any deaths but ironically wanted to be a good neighbour. More than 4000 people had to leave their homes when the mining operations were started in 2000. However, the pollution caused by Geita gold mine is not an isolated incident in Tanzania. Similar incidents have also occurred for the Bulyanhulu mine which is operated by Barrick Gold Tanzania Limited, which has impacted on the Nyamongo village community.

The devastating impacts of gold mining on Tanzania communities and environment (as above) was also noted in a 2008 Tanzanian report by a Special Rapporteur to the United Nations, Human Rights Council on ‘the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights.’ In accordance with the Resolution of the Commission on Human Rights the appointment of a Special Rapporteur is mandated to carry out field missions with a view to assisting the Governments concerned in finding appropriate solutions to deal with the illicit traffic and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes, especially in African and other developing countries. In addition, the report noted with concern the large volume of unregulated small-scale mining that is taking place around the country.

It was noted that both gold and diamonds were using chemicals such as mercury and other dangerous products during the extraction process without the use of proper safety equipment (potentially impacting on workers health). Of concern was that substantial amounts of mercury were obtained by small-scale miners from “unofficial” sources outside the control of the government. Miners also did not have adequate information about the impact mercury could have on their health, including the dangers of the improper disposal of tailings and their effect on their livelihood and the environment. In a number of areas, land, water, plants and livestock were noted to possibly be at a high risk of contamination from mercury and other dangerous wastes. In other cases, a limited number of small-scale miners had some awareness of the dangers of using mercury and other chemicals in the extraction process. However, due to poverty, inadequate information and the lack of a suitable alternative, the miners continued to use mercury and other dangerous products without appropriate safety measures, endangering both the environment and their own health. Large scale gold mining companies did not conduct adequate awareness campaigns to sensitise villagers in their areas about the dangers posed by contact with wastes from their operations, particularly cyanide. The case study above shows how multinationals that set up operations in Africa; dump their toxic by-products of their industrial processes onto local populations who have to suffer the consequences of local resources extraction. Unfortunately, this extracted wealth leaves the local communities who rightfully own local resources. The only things left behind by multinationals for communities are externality costs (i.e. degraded environments and human health effects for present and future generations).

Britain’s Thor Chemicals waste trafficking: The case of South Africa
Background and history
Thor Chemicals Inc of Great Britain (now known as Guernica Chemicals), a mercury processing plant established in 1963, had been accused in 1987 of poisoning workers and putting surrounding South African black communities at risk from mercury exposure. The industry relocated its United Kingdom mercury recycling operation to Cato Ridge in 1987. The risks created by Thor were situated in the Umgeni catchment at Cato Ridge in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The company activity included the production of mercury-based products for local and export markets. Thor engaged in the manufacture and marketing of biocides, textile auxiliaries and metallic organic soaps. The company received mercury waste shipments mainly from the United States, but also from Britain, Singapore and Indonesia. Other areas included Brazil and Italy. As one of the only facilities in the world to form a large-scale mercury reclaiming process, Thor quickly became a target for many international companies facing the predicament of what to do with mercury waste. These exports and pollution caused by Thor were disclosed as part of an investigation of toxic waste trafficking. Thor was receiving shipments as part of their mercury recovery (recycling) program, which included the importation of mercury waste to recover mercury. The company accumulated mercury waste because of increased production of mercuric compounds and spent catalyst waste returned by its customers after use.

Thor committed numerous offences, including the relocation of operations to South Africa to escape health and safety criticisms from United Kingdom authorities. The company neglected to protect workers from the occupational health hazards associated with mercury. Management disregarding company urinary monitoring results that repeatedly indicated excessive levels of mercury in workers and failed to inform workers about the occupational health hazards associated with mercury. Thor also employed casual and untrained workers who were laid off or ‘recycled’ once they became ill. Other offences committed by Thor included environmental racism, contamination of local groundwater and surface water supplies, stockpiling of mercury waste, sludge, and treated waste. The company also exceeded atmospheric emissions beyond existing regulations and used incineration for disposal despite it being abandoned in most countries in the late 1980s. This was due to organic generating air releases (i.e. polychlorinated biphenyl’s and dioxin) and toxic ash disposal. The industry was incinerating hazardous waste without a license. The incinerator did not meet required standards as set out by different government departments, and despite the shutdowns, Thor continued accepting waste which accumulated. The mercury Thor received contained high levels of dangerous organic compounds. At the time there were five mercury-recycling plants in the United States but not one of them would touch waste with an organic content higher than 3%. The mercury waste containing organic contents received by Thor was said to be between 30 and 40% by volume. TCH had been aware of the poor operations of its plant since 1978. In 1987 TCH was issued with an ultimatum by United Kingdom authorities to clean up or face court action and was forced to close its United Kingdom operations. Despite this TCH continued its mercury operations in South Africa. In 1990 even though the then Minister of Environmental Affairs announced that: ‘South Africa will under no circumstances allow that other countries export their hazardous waste to South Africa’, the Minister of Environment bowed to multinational pressure within two months of the first announcement. In a letter addressed to the Managing Director of Thor Chemicals, South Africa, the Minister rescinded the ban placed on the importation of hazardous waste, provided Thor did not accept spent chemicals for recycling, other than those originating from its other subsidiaries.

Environmental and health impacts
The people most affected were workers directly handling mercury. It was reported that they were suffering from a severe nervous disorder induced by mercury poisoning. In 1990 South African NGO Earth Life Africa (ELA) received reports of workers ‘going mad’ at Thor. Many workers died after being exposed to massive quantities of mercury. In April 1990, 29 workers at the Cato Ridge Thor site presented psychiatric and neurological signs and symptoms. Subsequent medical examinations revealed that workers’ had severe mercury poisoning and subsequently three workers died from mercury poisoning. An investigation by the Industrial Health Unit into 80 medical records revealed that 87% of workers had mercury levels that were above the safe limit. In 1992, an Industrial Health Unit report stated that 28% of workers were in danger of permanent health damage due to poisoning. In 1992 a government report revealed that 29 workers had suffered mercury poisoning. In 1998 it was shown that workers had been exposed to mercury levels up to 12 times higher than World Health Organisation (WHO) regulations. Workers were exposed to high mercury levels during employment and suffered symptoms including sexual dysfunction, tiredness, quick tempers and severe memory loss. Mercury was also found 15 kilometers downstream from the plant. Water samples, taken from the Mngeweni River behind Thor and analysed for mercury, were found to contain 1.5 million parts per billion. This was 1500 times higher than the United States limit for “sediment to be declared toxic.” In 1990 samples taken by Greenpeace and local activists revealed equally high levels of mercury. Cattle died due to mercury exposure from drinking water. The stockpiled waste had also contaminated groundwater and soil. Thor exposed the downstream communities that relied on this river for drinking and fishing with mercury poisoning. Rats in the vicinity were found by a zoologist to have seven times more mercury in their bodies than a control group away from the plant.

Responses towards environmental injustice
Early protest in 1990 against Thor Chemicals was brought together by a heterogeneous group of people including black peasant farmers, ecologists, students, unionised workers and the traditional Zulu chief. The South African Chemical Worker’s Industrial Unit (SACWIU) General Secretary noted that the demonstration signalled a powerful ‘rainbow coalition’ between green groups and the trade union movement in South Africa. Publicity both nationally and internationally was employed. The first indication of injustice was revealed when Greenpeace, ELA and the South African NGO Environmental Justice Networking Forum (EJNF) exposed a dispatched shipment of 160 barrels of toxic mercury from its Louisiana plant to South Africa. In South Africa, ELA, EJNF and protesters held vigils at the Cato Ridge plant on 21 February 1993. Similar protests were held at the Borden plant in Louisiana. Such actions had a strong international component with workers and concerned citizens in two countries thousands of miles apart combining forces to send a clear message to multinationals and the international toxic waste trade, that they would not go unchallenged. Worldwide attention focused on the international shipping of toxic waste. The pressure was applied on government by the South African environmental organisations to ban further imports of toxic waste according to the Basel convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal. ELA and Greenpeace began compiling information on Thor activities and transgressions and began building a case study against Thor and the SA government. Following the deaths of two workers in 1992 and months of investigation, Thor was criminally charged in Great Britain for culpable homicide and violations of machinery and Occupational Safety Act. In 1994, a claim was filed against Thor in the High Court in London on behalf of the first three victims.

On 24 March 1995, after public outcry of mercury waste poisoning, the government appointed a Commission of Inquiry into Thor Chemicals. The purpose of the commission was to investigate the history as well as the background of the acquisition of the mercury stockpiles on the Thor premises and to report on further utilisation. The formal Department of Manpower inquiry revealed gross negligence. A total of 41 former workers sued Thor for compensation for mercury poisoning. The cases were ultimately settled out of court. Court proceedings against Thor took place from 1992 to 1995. All charges of homicide against three employees were dropped by the State Prosecutor. In the 1990s, compensation claims against the parent company of Thor Chemicals commenced in the English High Court on behalf of 20 workers affected by mercury poisoning. The claims alleged that the English parent company was liable because of its negligent design, transfer, set-up, operation, and supervision and monitoring of an intrinsically hazardous process. In 1997, the claim was settled for £1.3 million. A further 21 claims were commenced by workers from the same factory and settled on the first day of trial. Evidence from abroad against Thor was said to be important for successful outcomes of litigations.

In 1994, after seven workers died at the plant, the South African government prohibited the plant from operating. Since then stockpiled mercury waste has been sitting on the property and has leaked chemicals into the environment. Thor closed it mercury-recycling operations in 1997 but did not remove the stored mercury stored on-site. In 2003, the Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs handed over a directive to clean up to the management of Thor. In terms of the directive, Thor would have to take specific steps within a specific time to properly and safely store the waste and to clean up all traces of mercury contamination in the surrounding community.

In June 2004, the national Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) commissioned consultants to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Treatment and Disposal of Mercury Waste and Decontamination of the Thor Chemical Site in Cato Ridge. NGOs gW and ELA questioned whether incineration would be used in the final disposal phase. According to gW, the wheels of justice with regard to holding Thor accountable and protecting the health of people and the environment has been slow. In 1994 the National Department of Health closed Thor’s recovery plant after tests revealed unacceptable levels of mercury in emissions from the incinerator. In the same year, imports of mercury-containing waste ceased to be imported into the Cato Ridge plant. However, the Cato Ridge site still houses over 3,500 tonnes of mercury-containing waste endangering surrounding communities and the environment. Environmental justice has not been fuller achieved.

Unknown impacts of e-waste on human health and the environment
According to the European Environmental Agency, e-waste is growing faster than any other type of waste, with an annual volume close to 40 million metric tonnes globally. Unfortunately, many communities and workers exposed to toxic waste in developing countries do not know the extent of the impacts of toxic waste to human health and their surrounding environments. A Greenpeace analysis of soil and sediment were taken from two electronic wastes scrap yards in Ghana in 2008 revealed severe contamination with hazardous chemicals. The report ‘Chemical contamination at e-waste recycling and disposal sites in Ghana’, noted with concern the extent of environmental contamination caused by recycling and disposal of e-waste in Ghana from Europe, the United States and Japan. Some of the samples contained toxic metals including lead in quantities as much as one hundred times above levels found in uncontaminated soil and sediment samples. Other chemicals such as phthalates, some which are known to interfere with sexual reproduction, were found in most of the test samples. One sample also contained a high level of chlorinated dioxins, known to promote cancer. There was a concern for Ghanian children’s developmental and reproductive systems, as well as brain development and nervous system impacts.

Other activities that have the potential for impacting on handlers of e-waste include children playing amid heaps of toxic ash from burned electronic waste, unprotected workers brushing cancer-causing carbon black from computer printer cartridges, labourers opening cathode ray tubes containing toxic lead and barium, and widespread burning of plastics that produce dioxins. Other activities include handlers whose work involves sitting by small fires, heating up computer circuit boards to melt the lead-and-tin solder, producing toxic fumes they cannot help but inhale.

Conclusion
Unfortunately, the impacts of toxic waste are usually borne by poor people, whom in addition to already experiencing high levels of poverty that impact on their health; have to deal with added chemical and toxic exposures that further reduce their quality of life. Hazardous waste disposal sites generally expose large populations to toxins. Communities exposed to such toxins are almost always required to also provide evidence for the burdens they are exposed to even though impacts on health may or may not be clearly visible. In fact, many of the impacts to health may take years to fully materialise due to the bioaccumulatory nature of toxic chemicals exposure. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights notes that toxic waste affects the human right to health, both physical and mental, and the human rights to clean water, food, adequate housing and work. Unfortunately, poor communities in Africa do not have the resources to fight against multinational corruption and dumping of toxic waste into communities. It is ultimately up to civil society organisations and governments who must provide the necessary education to inform people about impacts of toxic waste on human health and the environment. In addition, the global community must stop toxic waste and illegal toxic waste disposal. However, what are the solutions to eliminate the production of toxic waste and waste trafficking and disposal for Africa? This will be addressed in final Part 3 of this research series.

Leonard, L. (2009) The environmental and human health impacts of Waste: Responses towards environmental justice for Africa, Research Series – Part 2, Ugandan Parliamentary Briefing, United Kingdom, 13 March.

The politics of waste and transboundary movement of waste into Africa Research Series: Part 1

This paper is one of a three-part research series exploring the transboundary movement of toxic waste from developed to developing countries. This first part research series traces some of the reasons for the movement of toxic waste from northern to southern countries, focusing especially on waste imports into the African continent. International and regional African policy efforts to help control the shipment of toxic waste across nation states are highlighted (i.e. Basel and Bamako Conventions). The failure of some of these political responses to control transboundary movement of waste is examined. Those factors that serve as an incentive for the transboundary shipment of waste are discussed (i.e. reduced costs for developed nations, weak enforcement and corruption in developing countries, globalisation and criminal networks). This paper builds on research series parts two and three which will explore the impacts of toxic waste trafficking on human health and the environment (Part 2), as well as proposed solutions to eliminate the production of toxic waste and waste trafficking (Part 3).

Introduction
As developed countries increasingly submerge under the pressure of growing consumer waste, developing countries will continue to be used as a dumping ground for the waste of industrialised nations. From 1968 to 1988 alone, more than 3.6 million tonnes of toxic waste solvents, acetone, cobalt, cadmium, chemical and pharmaceutical waste, and perhaps some low-level radioactive waste were shipped to less developed nations. Records of dumping have been recorded since the early 1970’s. Strong environmental movements, the Not-in-My-Backyard (NIMBY) syndrome, and strong legislative responses to hazardous waste disposal in developed countries have drastically increased the costs of hazardous waste management for industry, making the exports of industrial wastes quite attractive. As environmentalism and public opposition to waste siting increased in industrialised countries, cross-national trade in hazardous waste became a common practice in the 1970s and escalated between the 1980s and the 1990s.

Unfortunately, Africa like many other developing nations has been the target for imported waste. Some examples of early imports of hazardous waste into Africa have included the shipment in 1987 of 18,000 barrels of hazardous waste (i.e. polychlorinated biphenyls) into Nigeria from the Italian companies Ecomar and Jelly Wax, which agreed to pay a local farmer $100 per month for storage. Thor Chemicals Inc of Great Britain, a mercury processing plant, which relocated to South Africa in the late 1970’s was also accused in 1987 of importing waste into Durban, resulting in severe human health and environmental impacts. (Refer to research Series Part 2: Case study on Thor Chemicals for human health and environmental impacts). In 1997, a few European companies’ dumped 10 million tonnes of toxic waste in Southern Somalia in exchange for $80 million. The alleged perpetrators were Italian and Swiss firms who supposedly entered into a contract with the Somali government during the civil war to dump waste in the war-ravaged African nation. For the past 15 years, the coast of Somalia has been used as an illegal dumping ground for several European companies who have dumped their most toxic substances including nuclear and chemical wastes into Somalia’s waters.

Developed countries produce more toxic waste than they are willing to handle and the price of unsustainable development is being paid by the poorest populations on the globe. Most of the hazardous waste produced in the world has been from developed countries. Commonly exported hazardous wastes include acids, asbestos, automobile scrap, computer/electronic scrap, banned pesticides and agrochemicals, hospital waste, dioxins containing wastes from fossil fuel electric power stations, scrap tires, scrap PVCs, mercury waste, lead acid batteries, and metallic and galvanic sludge’s, all known to be lethal. Other wastes imported to developing countries include raw sewage, sludge, incinerated ashes, and contaminated oils, chemical substances, acids, poisonous solvents ejected by chemical, pharmaceutical, and fertiliser producing plants. The United States generates 85% of the world’s hazardous wastes, while European Union countries generate about 10% of the world total, amounting to a staggering 95% of the world’s hazardous wastes produced by industrialised nations. Annually, more than 50 percent of the officially acknowledged volume of exported hazardous waste is channelled to less developed nations. The number of countries involved in export and import schemes, volume of trade, and properties of materials involved are often difficult to establish due to the covert and criminal nature of the transactions. This illegal dumping represents an enormous source of profits for criminal organisations, corrupt politicians and unscrupulous businessmen, both in African and developed countries. However, in recent years, the remuneration for firms in industrialised countries has increased even further, as they have been able to sell toxic waste to African countries under the label of ‘second-hand goods.’

Waste Politics:
International and African efforts to control transboundary movement of waste
The problem of transboundary movements of waste into Africa has become a major international environmental and trade issue. This prompted a number of political attempts to regulate and monitor the international transport of hazardous waste. The Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989) is the first global attempt to regulate and monitor the transboundary movement of hazardous waste. The Convention entered into force on 5 May 1992. At the Conference of Parties to the Basel Convention, the global community agreed by consensus to forbid developing countries from importing hazardous wastes. On March 25, 1994, the Basel Convention took an unprecedented and historic step and adopted consensus on a global ban on the export of hazardous wastes from the wealthiest and high waste producing countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to all other countries. Unfortunately, of 168 signatory states of the Basel Convention, only 68 countries have ratified the convention. A key player, the United States which produces 85% of hazardous waste has still not ratified the convention (Figure 1). This inevitably strikes a blow at its universal character. However ratification by some of the most waste intensive producing countries is not the only problem to the importation of toxic waste into Africa, a key loophole in the Basel Convention is that it allows waste to be exported to the less industrialised countries if the waste is destined for ‘recycling’ (i.e. dumping), with much waste trade involving some false pretext of recycling. Despite the efforts of the Basel Convention some participatory countries have continued to export toxic waste to less developed countries.

An African effort to control the movement of hazardous waste into Africa has been the Bamako Convention on the Ban of import into Africa and the control of transboundary movement and management of hazardous waste within Africa (1991). This Convention actually emerged during the negotiation of the Basel Convention when the African states represented by the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) adopted the Bamako Convention, as they were of the view that Basel was not strict enough regarding the total ban on exporting hazardous wastes into Africa and other relevant regional aspects. The Bamako Convention later went into force in 1996. The Bamako Convention has helped to stem partially toxic waste flowing into Africa. In the early 1980s, Africa was regarded as an easy target for the dumping of a whole range of hazardous materials, including industrial, pharmaceutical and radioactive wastes, as well as banned pesticides and toxic incinerator ash. Since African countries entered the Bamako agreement banning all waste imports, the international toxic traders have directed most of their efforts elsewhere (i.e. Since 1990, Australian, North American and European countries have shipped over 5 million tonnes of toxic wastes to Asia, mostly “scrap metal”, but also including large quantities of plastic and lead wastes, cadmium, aluminium, copper, tin, nickel, zinc, ash and residues, medical wastes, electronic-waste and other hazardous and radioactive wastes.) Nevertheless, the importation of waste into Africa continues to be a major problem.

Despite these significant attempts to curb the transboundary movement of waste (as above), the market for toxic waste has continued to treat Africa like a dump. This calls into question the efficacy of the current legal frameworks to tackle problems. Other recent global policy initiatives related to the transboundary movement of hazardous waste include the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) adopted in 2001, a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, and the the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) adopted in 2006. SAICM is a policy framework to foster the sound management of chemicals and to ensure that by the year 2020, ensuring chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimise significant adverse impacts on the environment and human health. It remains to be seen if these new initiatives will help stem the flow of hazardous waste imports into Africa, considering that previous global agreements have not been adhered to by some countries (i.e. In 2000 South Africa imported hazardous wastes from Australia in defiance of Basel Convention against such exports). And while initiatives such as SAICM are welcome, this policy tool is a non-binding agreement. Since even ratifying parties to the binding Basel have previously defied this agreement, one needs to questions if non-binding agreements will make any difference to help stem waste trafficking. However, the objective of SAICM which is to change how chemicals are produced and used in order to minimise harmful effects on human health and the environment is a fresh approach to help curb the production of toxic waste. These and other initiatives to help reduce toxic waste production will be discussed more in part three of this research series.

Despite efforts such as the Basel and Bamako Convention to stop toxic waste trafficking, toxic waste disposal still occurs in Africa. Reports in 2006 highlighted tonnes of poisonous chemical sludge dumped at various sites around the port city of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire when waste was offloaded from the Probo Koala, a tanker registered in Panama that had been chartered by a Dutch-based oil trader. A joint undercover investigation by Greenpeace, The Independent, and Sky News, revealed in February 2009, that tonnes of toxic electronic wastes such as computers and televisions from British municipal dumps are being illegally shipped to Nigeria despite the European Union’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EU WEE) directive which calls for safe disposal of such waste. According to The independent, hundreds of thousands of discarded items, which under British law must be dismantled or recycled by specialist contractors, are being packaged into cargo containers and shipped to countries such as Nigeria and Ghana, where they are stripped of their raw metals by young men between 15 and 20 years and children working on poisoned waste dumps.

Under WEEE, IT manufacturers are legally responsible for the safe disposal of their products and are obliged to ensure all products are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner themselves or sign up with a government-approved waste-handling firm. Experts claim the legislation “lacks teeth” and its enforcement body, the Environment Agency, is badly underfunded. The Environment Agency has no staff to oversee those who knowingly flout the WEEE directive. This further highlights WEEE weaknesses in controlling imports of waste into Africa. Unfortunately, obsolete computers, mobile phones and electronic appliances containing toxic substances have been sold by industries claiming to promote the “digitalization” of Africa. The large majority of these devices, however, are no longer usable when they reach the continent and end up in open-air dumping sites, where waste-pickers burn them to extract metals such as copper or aluminium. In Nigeria, 75 % of the imported second-hand computing equipment are neither economically repairable nor saleable. Then, having been dismantled to extract precious metals, these types of equipment join unchecked discharges where they are burned.

Reduced costs for developed nations: An easy way out
African nations have been used as the dumping sites for hazardous toxic waste materials from developed countries that are out to reduce the costs of disposing or recycling these by-products of industries. Caught in a stranglehold by economic hardship, many African nations have been lured by the potential financial gains, which in some cases have exceeded the GDP of many poor countries, of importing hazardous waste from the West. Although they lack adequate installations of dangerous waste treatment, numerous African countries (Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Nigeria, Togo, Somalia and others) imported whole cargoes of toxic (industrial sludge, cyanides, solvents, pesticides, pharmaceutical waste) and even nuclear waste at very low prices of between 2.5 and 40 dollars a ton against about 75 – 300 dollars, the cost of elimination in industrial nations. In 2001 it was estimated by a United States government official that it would cost from $250 to $300 a tonne to dispose of toxic wastes within the country, whereas some developing countries would accept the same wastes for as little as $40 per tonne. The US frequently exports waste to developing countries, allowing producers and consumers to take advantage of very low labour costs and less stringent environmental and occupational regulations. Reports showed that as of April 2006, 500 loads of computer equipment were arriving in Lagos, Nigeria each month. As much as 75 percent of the incoming equipment mostly from governmental entities in the United States is unusable and are simply dumped. Unfortunately, industries dump hazardous electronic waste in Africa under the guise of charity.

Weak enforcement and corruption in developing countries
Strong legislative and enforcement in responses to hazardous waste disposal in developed countries have drastically increased the costs of waste disposal for the northern industry. Weak legislation and enforcement, as well as corrupt government officials in some southern countries, has resulted in northern industries exporting their waste to these countries for disposal. The level of corruption was noted during the report on poisonous chemical sludge dumped at various sites around the port city of Abidjan (as above). The report into the dumping points an accusatory finger at corrupt and indifferent officials, and the local company contracted to handle the waste. The government-appointed commission of inquiry also charged top officials with negligence and divided responsibility all along the administrative chain of command down to the level of local authorities. Abidjan port management also was noted to have ‘displayed notorious complicity’ with the polluters. The Ivorian company called Tommy agreed to dispose of the waste for under $20,000 (€15,000), which was sixteen times cheaper than officials in the Netherlands were going to charge the polluters. Officials from African countries may also be unlikely to address waste disposal problems as they must often turn a blind eye to environmental abuses to successfully compete for foreign investment. The complicity of some government officials may sometimes be bought by bribery. Since southern countries are passive, powerless or negligible actors in global environmental policy formulation and implementation, environmental burdens are continuously channelled to the Third World with a path of least or no resistance. Another factor that makes the current pattern of toxic waste dumping quite prevalent and attractive to multinational corporations (MNCs) is poverty or desperation to accept pollution for cash in many poor countries. Unfortunately, the short-term economic gains by both MNCs and the hosts generally overshadow the long-term adverse environmental and public health consequences.

Globalisation and criminal networks
Criminal networks have benefited from the toxic waste trade and have helped accelerate waste imports into Africa. Criminal networks are increasingly free of geographic constraints. Globalisation has not only expanded illegal markets and boosted the size and the resources of criminal networks but it has also imposed more burdens on governments. In Italy, the transportation and illegal trafficking of toxic waste is widely acknowledged. The word ’eco-mafia’ was created to describe organised criminal networks that profit from dumping or illegally disposing of commercial, industrial or radioactive waste. The ‘ecomafia’ sometimes hide behind a legal front in the waste treatment industry. From emission to final disposal this trade involves many other players, including shipping agents and brokers. Waste may pass through several countries, making it all the more difficult to pinpoint responsibilities. The prime victims are developing countries and conflict zones. In Italy, an estimated 30% of the special waste processing business is thought to be owned by the ‘ecomafia’ who win contracts quite legally and take care of waste by dumping it mainly in Africa. Eco-crime in Italy involves 202 organised groups, with €22.4 thousand million revenue in 2005. Though profit is the main incentive, the limited risks are also attractive. Environmental offences are not a priority and police pressure is consequently lower. Clearly, a much more united international effort is needed to combat criminal networks that deal in toxic waste trading that impact on developing nations like Africa.

Conclusion
Unfortunately, Africa like many other developing countries will continue to be used as a dumping ground for the increased consumerism waste of developed nations. This is considering that global waste generation was about 12.7 billion tonnes in 2000, and is expected to rise to about 19.0 billion tonnes in 2025 and to about 27.0 billion tonnes in 2050. The world’s consumption of primary energy (and hence waste production) is forecast to increase by around 50 percent between the years 2003 to 2030. As long as world leaders, especially in developed nations, continue to ignore important agreements to control the production of waste and the control of transboundary waste flows, import of waste into Africa and other developed countries will continue for decades to come. It will be important that African leaders through the OAU create an international voice for themselves and apply pressure on developed nations such as the US, which produces most of the toxic waste globally, to ratify the Basel Convention and its Ban Amendment. African leaders should not allow the importation of toxic waste into Africa since the continent should not be used as a dumping ground for the waste of developed economies that further trap poor nations into economic, health and environmental hardships. This must also include a process whereby a national task force is put in place to root out corruption and opportunism in African countries that help facilitate toxic waste trafficking, impacting on the health and environment for local populations. However, what are the problems for human health and the environment for transboundary movements of toxic waste in developing nations? This will be addressed in part 2 of this research series.

Leonard, L. (2009) The politics of waste and the transboundary movement of waste into Africa, Research Series – Part 1, Ugandan Parliamentary Briefing, Royal African Society, United Kingdom, 6 March.

Solutions towards eliminating waste and the transboundary movement of toxic waste Research Series: Part 3

This paper is the final part of a three-part research series exploring the transboundary movement of toxic waste from developed to developing countries and waste disposal. Part one highlighted some of the reasons for the movement of toxic waste from northern to southern countries, focusing especially on waste imports into the African continent. Part two examined some of the environmental and human health effects of transboundary waste movements and disposal in Africa. This final paper looks at some solutions towards eliminating waste and its impacts on people and the environment. If focuses on some international policy efforts to stem the producing of toxic waste, including complementary initiatives such as the Africa Stockpile Programme (ASP) aimed at cleaning up hazardous waste previously dumped in Africa. It also examines technological disposal treatments for toxic waste including comparing both thermal and non-thermal treatment options. The paper finally examines cleaner production (CP) and life cycle assessment (LCA) techniques, which can be used by industry to eliminate toxic waste at source. Recommendations for African governments are highlighted.

Introduction
Northern countries generate an enormous volume of toxic waste, which is either impossible or extremely costly to recycle. As noted in research series part one, the United States generates 85% of the world’s hazardous wastes, while European Union countries generate about 10% of the world total, amounting to a staggering 95% of the world’s hazardous wastes produced by industrialised nations. This has resulted in large amounts of toxic waste being shipped illegally to third world countries, especially Africa. This practice has resulted in enormous amounts of destruction to both human health and the environment. This illegal dumping has resulted in enormous sources of profits for criminal organisations (e.g. Italian ‘ecomafia’), corrupt politicians and unscrupulous businessmen, both in African and developed countries. This environmental injustice, especially on the poorest populations in Africa cannot go on without end. The prohibition on toxic waste exports involves reducing toxic waste generation to a minimum and ensuring that the disposal of any waste produced is done in an environmentally sound way, and as near as possible to the source of generation. This will also require adhering to agreements and restrictions imposed on toxic waste production and exports/imports, and commitments from governments globally to work together to limit and eventually eliminate the impacts imposed by waste and waste trafficking.

International efforts to alleviate waste impacts on people and the environment
Recognition of the risks that hazardous waste poses to the human health and the environment has led to significant progress at the international level to address problems. In addition to the Basel and Bamako Convention outlined in Research Series: Part 1, there have also been other initiatives to limit the impact of toxic waste on human health and the environment. The Rotterdam Convention (1998) on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade entered into force in 2004. The aim of the convention is to promote shared responsibility and cooperative efforts among Parties regarding the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals in order to protect human health and the environment from potential harm. The convention also aims to contribute to the environmentally sound use of hazardous chemicals, by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, and by providing for a national decision-making process on their import and export and by disseminating these decisions to Parties. The convention creates legally binding obligations for the implementation of the PIC procedure and covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by Parties, and which have been notified by Parties for inclusion in the PIC procedure.

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) is also a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods. The Stockholm Convention (2001) entered into force 2004 and requires Parties to take measures to eliminate or reduce the release of POPs into the environment. However, as research series part 1 noted, despite significant policy attempts to curb the transboundary movement of waste, the market for toxic waste has continued to treat Africa like a dump, calling into question the efficacy of the current legal frameworks to tackle problems. Some of the most polluting industrial countries (i.e. the US) responsible for producing most toxic waste impacting on Africa have also not ratified some of these important conventions. (Refer to research series part two for recent examples of transboundary movement of waste into Africa and impacts on human health and the environment).

Programmes to rid Africa of toxic waste
The Africa Stockpiles Programme (ASP)
An initiative to rid Africa of toxic waste through identification, containment, treatment and disposal has been the ASP. The ASP’s has a dual goal of removing stockpiles of hazardous waste, especially obsolete pesticides from Africa while investing in systems to prevent a recurrence of the problem. The ASP was initiated in 2000 by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) at the same time negotiations for the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) (above) were coming to a close. The ASP aims to address the accumulation of obsolete pesticide stockpiles across the African continent. The ASP was initiated to clean up stockpiled pesticides and pesticide-contaminated waste (e.g. containers and equipment) in Africa in an environmentally sound manner; catalyse the development of prevention measures; and provide capacity building and institutional strengthening on important chemicals-related issues. Africa’s stockpiles of poisonous chemicals have been accumulating over the past 40 years and longer. The problem has been spurred by poor training, weak controls, and aggressive marketing by chemical manufacturers, who sold (and dumped on) African countries more pesticides than they needed. The chemicals mainly include brands such as Dieldron, DDT, and a range of organophosphate pesticides used mainly for crop protection. Stocks of obsolete pesticides currently in Africa are estimated at 50,000 tonnes. Due to the serious threat to the health of both rural and urban populations, especially the poorest of the poor and environmental degradation, African countries were requesting assistance with their pesticides. The ASP started with seven initial countries (i.e. Ethiopia, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Tunisia). A multi-stakeholder partnership was established bringing together skills and expertise of multinational organisations, international non-governmental organisations, governments and industry. Mali and South Africa hold the largest stocks of obsolete pesticides in Africa. In South Africa, this is related to the activities of the Apartheid regime while for Mali, government authorities had allowed foreign companies to keep large stocks of these products in their country.

Disposal of Obsolete stocks – a move away from incineration in Africa
In January 2003 the author attended a workshop held by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) for the development of a National Implementation Plan (NIP) for the management of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and strategies to clean up and prevent future accumulation of unwanted stocks of pesticides under the ASP. Of concern was that under the section “Disposal Phase”, non-burn technologies were not included as an option, with incinerator vendors present at the meeting and given an opportunity to market their combustion treatment. From the very beginning of the ASP, civil society groups (internationally and in Africa) have voiced concern about the burning of wastes in incinerators, since incinerators contribute substantially to global pollution by producing deadly poisons such as dioxins and furans. Health effects of incineration as a disposal technology include transferring toxic metals into the human blood stream by inhalation, deposition and absorption, and producing cancer-causing toxins (i.e. dioxins and furans) putting human health and the environment at risks. It would be tragic if Africa was left standing with a new legacy of polluting incinerators (waste itself) set up to destroy an earlier legacy caused by hazardous waste dumped on Africa by aid and trade organisations.

The ASP organised a Stakeholders Forum in Rabat, Morroco, October 17-18, 2007 to discuss progress and expansion of the continent-wide effort aimed at eliminating existing stockpiles of obsolete pesticides and preventing their future accumulation. The Rabat Programme of Action agreed on certain principles (Refer to figure 1). One of the points of agreement was that obsolete stocks would be disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. Since incineration is not an environmentally sound option for disposal of hazardous waste; it, therefore, cannot be an option for disposal in Africa. The ASP aims to dispose of pesticides and associated wastes in an ‘environmentally sound’ manner in accordance with national and international laws, including the Stockholm Convention. It will require proof that a candidate disposal facility operates in compliance with these standards. Due to the pollution emitted from incinerators especially in Africa due to lack of strong enforcement and regulation, the toxic ash requiring special containment and disposal in special landfill sites, as well as conventions like Stockholm that recognise incineration as a principle source of cancer-causing dioxin formation makes incineration as a disposal technology unfeasible.

Because of human health and environmental concerns of incineration, there has been a move away from incineration internationally. This is true for countries such as USA, India, Greece, Germany, France, Turkey, Japan, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Philippines. However, within Africa there have been cases where governments and civil society has refused international efforts to shift this polluting technology into Africa. In 2001, private company, Peacock Bay Environmental Services (PBES) and the United States based company Roy F. Weston proposed to construct a hazardous waste incinerator in Sasolburg, in the Free State Province, South Africa. The incinerator was the largest hazardous waste incinerator proposed in Southern Africa. Due to pressure from civil society, the Free State Department of Environment, Tourism and Economic Affairs rejected the application by PBES on health and procedural grounds. Similarly, a previous Danish Aid Agency, DANIDA proposed to build a permanent hazardous waste incinerator to address Mozambique’s obsolete pesticide problem, was rejected by the Mozambique Ministry of Environment in the early 1990’s. The provincial government Department of Health (DOH) in Kwa-Zulu Natal, Durban, South Africa also took a policy decision in 2003 to phase out incineration in provincial state hospitals due to civil society concerns over incineration and after successful attempts by a national environmental justice NGO groundWork to help two rural hospitals implement waste reduction programmes, which resulted in impressive cost savings for disposal. One of the largest medical waste incinerators has since been shut down. It is hoped that other African governments will learn from these examples and follow suit to ensure that Africa does not continue to be used as a dumping ground for toxic waste, including obsolete technologies.

Alternative non-combustion technologies
A number of commercialised ‘no-burn’ technologies can destroy POPs, however, non-combustion facilities have not yet bid to handle waste from the stockpiles of hazardous waste under the ASP. This has been due to their current inability to cope with the state of the toxic waste and their inability to offer a service to collect and transport the waste such as are offered by companies running high-temperature incinerators and weakness of the non-combustion waste treatment industry. This suggests a need for more incentive from the government to invest in these types of non-combustion technologies. However, if toxic waste under the ASP is to be disposed off immediately via incineration until non-thermal technologies are strengthened (instead of eventually leaking into the ground), the waste would need to be exported for safe destruction in a developed country such as Europe, which has the resources and strong regulations in place for disposal via incineration. This has also been the position advocated by international environmental organisations during the ASP. However, incineration should only be used to ‘one-off’ dispose of ASP waste and should not create an incentive for other waste to be incinerated. However, three ‘no-burn technologies’ which governments worldwide should support politically include:

Gas phase chemical reduction (GPCR)
The process includes hydrogen reacting with the wastes at 800-900 degrees and at low pressure. This converts the waste to methane, hydrogen chloride and some light hydrocarbons. This takes places in an oxygen-free environment reducing the likelihood of cancer-causing dioxin production. Any dioxin present in the waste should also be destroyed. In tests, this process has been effective at destroying at least 99.999% of the POPs. This process has been in use for the destruction of pesticides and POPs waste for several years and can be used for solid and liquid waste. Because hydrogen is used, rather than oxygen (as in incineration processes), there is no risk of forming dioxins and furans during the GPCR reactions. This technology is currently permitted for use in Canada (Ontario), the United States, Japan and Australia.

Based catalysed decomposition (BCD)
This technology is commonly used for liquid waste. Waste is heated to 300-350 degrees in a nitrogen atmosphere at a normal pressure in the presence of a hydrocarbon mixture. Hydrogen given off by the heated mixture decomposes the pesticides/POPs forming inorganic salts, inert residue and water. Old BCD plants discharged measurable amounts of organochlorines and dioxins to air. The new BCD plants can destroy and remove over 99.99999% of input POPs/pesticides/dioxins and emissions can be captured for reprocessing if necessary.

Sodium reduction (SR)
In this process chlorine from PCBs is completely removed by alkali metal reduction with dispersed sodium in mineral oil. This takes place in a dry nitrogen atmosphere at normal pressure. Currently, there is insufficient data on the efficiency of this process at destroying POPs/pesticides, although the process has met regulatory criteria in the USA, EU, Canada, South Africa, Australia and Japan. This technology has been used for several years to treat PCB-contaminated transformer oil, with mobile plants available.

Greening industry and reducing waste at source:
Clean production (CP) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) techniques
If toxic waste trafficking to developing countries and impacts on human health and the environment are to be avoided then industries and governments globally need to stop the production of toxic waste at source. One of the ways for industry to eliminate toxic waste is to ensure that industries adopt sustainable development principles into existing operations. Sustainable development means adopting business strategies and activities that meet the needs of the enterprise and its stakeholders today while protecting, sustaining and enhancing the human and natural resources that will be needed now and in the future. CP techniques are a way for industries to integrate sustainable business practices, while also remaining competitive. CP is the continuous application of an integrated preventative environmental strategy to processes, products and services to increase overall efficiency. This leads to improved environmental performance, cost savings, and the reduction of risk to humans and the environment. CP should not be considered only as an environmental strategy since it also relates to economic considerations. In this context, waste is considered to be a product with negative economic value. Each action to reduce consumption of raw materials and energy, and reduce waste generation, increases productivity and brings financial benefits to the industry. Much of today’s environmental protection focuses on what to do with wastes and emissions that have already been created, focusing on ‘end-of-pipe’ treatment. As opposed to this notion, the ultimate goal of CP is to avoid generating pollution in the first place.

Pollution prevention approach implementation (i.e. CP) focuses on finding the source of waste and emissions, performing environmental monitoring on site and identifying the cause of pollution and the consumption of other resources used for waste and emission treatment and reduction of operational costs. While Environmental Management Systems such as ISO 14001 are popular, they provide no guarantee that industries will apply pollution prevention approaches. This can be solved by incorporating principles and methods of pollution prevention into Environmental Management System (EMS) structures. This will stimulate any industry to continue searching for preventative improvements and provides opportunities to manage environmental risks in cost effective ways. LCA which is part of CP allows industry to track the environmental impact of products, services throughout their life and to identify areas of environmental damage. In such way, the redesigning of products, production and distribution methods will reduce environmental damage. Thus greening industry can reduce waste at source and avoid waste trafficking into Africa and other developed countries.

For the greening of industry to occur, this must be based on the incorporation of market-based incentives, a broad commitment to public environmental information, and targeted assistance to industries who are trying to improve environmental performance. This will also require partnerships with community representatives taking their place at the negotiating table along with government, industry and civil society generally. Such partnerships will give policymakers more options in solving the toxic waste production crisis. Governments will also need to improve existing legislation and impose new responsibilities for monitoring factories’ environmental performance and enforcing regulations. All of these will require a fundamental shift in attitudes and changing industrial procedures.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
There is also a need for identified toxic waste to be returned to the producer (if identifiable) which is in line with the principle of EPR. EPR imposes accountability over the entire lifecycle of products and packaging introduced on the market. Firms, which manufacture, import and/or sell products and packaging, are required to be financially or physically responsible for such products after their useful life. They must either take back spent products and manage them through reuse and recycling or dispose of them with limited impact to human health and the environment. The producer may also delegate this responsibility to a third party, paid by the producer for spent product management. In this way, EPR shifts responsibility for waste from government and civil society to the private industry, obliging producers, importers and/or sellers to internalise waste management costs in their product prices. However, for EPR to work requires incentive from governments to implement EPR mechanisms and enforced governance and requires governments globally to work together to eventually reduce and eliminate waste.

Benefits of toxic use reduction legislation – the case of Massachusetts, United States
Massachusetts in the US has achieved a significant reduction of hazardous waste through mandatory company planning. This legislation and training programme has become a model for pollution prevention activities around the world. The Toxic Use Reduction Act (TURA) was passed in 1989. The goal of the legislation is to develop toxics use reduction as its primary tool for industrial pollution control while enhancing the competitive position of Massachusetts enterprises. The first goal was to reduce toxic waste generation by 50 percent through toxics use reduction over a 10 year period (1987-1997). Under the TURA, firms that use any of a list of approximately 800 chemicals in quantities that annually cross a minimum threshold, must annually report publicly on the amount of chemical used and released; pay an annual fee and prepare a plan (updated every two years) on how to reduce or eliminate the use of those chemicals. The chemicals must be certified by a licensed Toxics Use Reduction Planner. Between 1990 and 1993 all firms cut their toxic waste by 14.5 percent and planned to generate 23 percent less waste in 1998, with the total volume of listed toxic chemicals in the state dropping by 6 percent within the first three years. Together, the twenty-nine firms applying for awards in toxics use reduction had eliminated the use of 2,870 tonnes of toxic chemicals, reduced 750 tonnes of hazardous wastes and saved US$44 million per year.

Conclusion
To halt the importation of toxic waste into Africa, African governments will need to place the interest of local populations and the environment above the economic interest of multinational corporations who dump waste in African countries. African governments and local industries will need to stem out corruption and self-interests if this is to be successful. As noted in research series part one, national task forces must be put in place in African countries to root out corruption and opportunism and that also help facilitate toxic waste trafficking, impacting on the health and environment. It is essential that governments adhere to international and African efforts to control toxic waste production and eventual elimination (i.e. Basel, Bamako, and Stockholm Convention) including parallel efforts designed to reduce and eliminate waste (i.e. SAICM, ASP). Despite the increase in toxic waste trafficking since the introduction of many international policy efforts, there is still a need for governments globally to respect efforts to stem toxic waste production and trafficking. It is only through collectively following national and international agreements to reduce, halt and eliminate waste that the problems of toxic waste can be solved. African leaders through the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) must create an international voice and apply pressure on developed nations such as the US, which produces most of the toxic waste globally, to ratify the Basel Convention and its Ban Amendment.

African governments must also ensure that incineration is not allowed as an option for disposal of toxic waste and waste generally in Africa, rather there is a need to move towards non-thermal treatment techniques which will require political and policy incentives. African governments should refuse any attempts for obsolete technological shifts from northern to southern countries. Rather there is a need to go to the root of toxic waste problems and design national legislation to reduce waste at source and compel multinationals operating in their countries (and local industry) to introduce and demonstrate sustainable business strategies. Northern governments will also need to hold industry to account and compel industry to reduce and eliminate toxic waste in production processes. However, this will also require market-based incentives, and increased partnerships and transparency between industry, government and civil society. Such partnerships will give governments and policymakers more options in solving the toxic waste and pollution crisis impacting on human health and the environment. However, governments will need to improve governance structures through improved monitoring of factories’ for environmental performance and by enforcing regulations.

Civil society organisations and governments (and industry) must provide education to inform people about the impacts of toxic waste on human health and the environment to help reduce impacts and identify potential risks. Whether toxic waste trafficking will be eliminated in the future remains to be seen, but as long as there is a lack of altruistic values and attitudes towards human society and nature we will continue to witness toxic waste production and trafficking. As American environmentalist, Aldo Leopold noted, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”. Ultimately, in addition to international policy efforts there is a need for many behavioural changes by industries to implement cleaner production and life cycle assessment techniques that aim to reduce and eliminate waste and toxic waste impacts to humans and the environment, or else it may be too late for the environment and humanity at large. As previous Secretary General of the U.N – U. Thant stated in 1970, “…we must ask ourselves seriously whether we really wish some future universal historian on another planet to say about us: “With all their genius and with all their skill, they ran out of foresight and air and food and water and ideas,” or, “They went on playing politics until their world collapsed around them.””

Leonard, L. (2009) Solutions towards eliminating the impacts of waste and transboundary movement of waste: Cases from the Africa continent, Research Series – Part 3, Ugandan Parliamentary Briefing, United Kingdom, 17 March.