The Circuit: Tracking America’s Electronic Waste

You buy a new phone or computer and you take your old one to a local recycler. It’s the green thing to do, right? Well, it turns out a lot of those devices may not be getting recycled at all. The United States is the single largest producer of electronic waste, generating almost 8 million tons a year. Our EarthFix team follows the e-waste trail.

Producers: Katie Campbell and Ken Christensen
Photographers/Editors: Ken Christensen and Katie Campbell
Graphics: Madeleine Pisaneschi
Additional editing: Amy Mahardy
Production support: Carolin Jones
Translators: Dongxia Su, Jade Vong
Tracking data map: MIT Senseable City Lab, Basel Action Network
Additional photography: Basel Action Network
Video Rating: / 5

E-waste, the term given to discarded electronic appliances, is often shipped by developed nations to poorer countries such as Ghana. RTD visits the country’s most infamous dumping ground, Agbogbloshie. Locals call it “Sodom and Gomorrah” after the infamous Biblical sin cities. Its air and soil are polluted with toxic chemicals, while extreme poverty, child labour and criminal gangs are also rife. Learn more

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13 thoughts on “The Circuit: Tracking America’s Electronic Waste”

  1. Okay, so you tracked old used electronics as they went out to other countries. So what? How is that anything different from a large scale version of your local PC recycle shop or GoodWill store? Perhaps these countries can do something with them, else why would they accept it? There's a reason for the saying that "one man's junk is another man's treasure".

  2. Certainly not remotely close the the world's largest e-waste dump. I know these people, there are maybe 30 people doing e-scrap there, majority do automobile and other scrap. Mostly its collected from the city of Accra. The urban hygiene is a serious problem, but this is about problems in slums, and the "e-waste" thing is a false tangent.

  3. Government in Ghana has to stop this crime. Europeans should keep their own e-waste and get rid of it properly. This is beyond criminal.

  4. It hurts just to watch it! Kids burning of PVC plastic from copper wires and just smashing old CRT screens. Seeing all the stuff witch is not recycled or reused starting from LDPE bags, PET bottles to copper traces on PCB's, gold plated contacts, etc.

  5. Unbelievable!

    The west and China extracts precious metals from Africa's ground for cheap and sends backs its scraps after its used them to create luxury goods for themselves

    We will all have to pay one day

    That day is Judgement Day

  6. Ironically the person at 7:30 says that them breathing in toxic plasic fumes is as harmful as drinking rat poison everyday.
    Sodium Fluoride is the one & only ingredient in rat poison & thats added to our water supply.


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