Analysis of the e-waste management conditions in Agbogbloshie through a process based MFA

by Karoline Owusu-Sekyere (presenting author)1, Richard Afoblikame2, Alexander Batteiger2, Markus Spitzbart2

1: University of Stuttgart; 2: GIZ Ghana, E-Waste Project


Informal waste workers dismantle all kinds of e-waste with improper recycling methods at the Agbogbloshie scrapyard in Ghana’s capital Accra. As a result, toxic pollutants are released to water, soil and ambient air, harming environment and human health.

A qualitative and quantitative martial flow analysis (MFA), to understand the mass and material flows as well as the informal recycling processes was carried out within a field study at the scrapyard of Agbogbloshie.

The objective of this research is to know and describe the recycling processes and constitution of (e-) waste volumes at the Agbogbloshie scrapyard, aiming to identify appropriate intervention measures. The scientific contribution is, to assess data, which allows to improve and establish a sustainable e-waste management system within the informal sector in Agbogbloshie.

Major impacts on the environment, arising risks for human health and resource losses of metals and recyclable fractions were identified and recorded within the MFA, using STAN as a modelling software.

Two different, but comparable, methods for data acquisition (an assessment and a participating observation) were used to determine in- and output flows as well as relevant recycling processes.

As a result, the amount and constitution of the (e-) waste and the informal recycling techniques was investigated, and the most harmful impacts on environment, human health and resource losses were identified. It was found that about 44% of Ghana’s e-waste is processed in Agbogbloshie. E-waste accounts for 26 mass-% of the total processed waste on site. Half of the treated e-waste belongs to the group of IT and telecommunication devices due to its high proportion of valuable metals.

It was found that most affecting processes for environment and health come from e-waste recycling techniques. Process related recommendations for improvement of the informal e-waste management were derived and are aimed to be applied practically.