Dangerous Donations: Discarded Electronics in Accra, Ghana

Open Access
Fuhriman, Darrell
Graduate Program:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
Committee Members:
  • Petra Tschakert, Thesis Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • basel convention
  • environmental justice
  • political ecology
  • ghana
  • accra
  • e-waste
  • toxics
  • digital divide
  • charity
In this thesis, I use the example of Accra, Ghana to examine the fate of computer equipment donated from the global North to the South. These donations, though tangibly beneficial, may have unintended and unanticipated consequences that are unknown to donor organizations in the North. When the computers inevitably fail, they must be discarded. Yet, countries of the South lack adequate facilities to safely reprocess the toxic materials contained in this equipment. As a result, some communities are disproportionately exposed to lead, ground water pollution, and other toxics. I show how the communities affected are not chosen at random and can best be understood using nascent theoretical advances in environmental justice. These advances stress the need for a conception of environmental justice that incorporates not just maldistribution, but lack of recognition of affected parties as possessing equal human rights, and consequent lack of access to environmental decision-making. I argue that political ecology provides a valuable framework for examining environmental injustice, but can also benefit from the incorporation of these theories of environmental justice.