Young men and boys in and around Freetown are engaged in the sale of scrap metals and copper wires extracted from electronic gadgets that have served their lifespan. They burn these old computer parts and other devices to get to the copper wires or other useful metal components. The Kingtom Bomeh Dumpsite is one of these places where this activity is taking place on an industrial scale. Some of the scavengers set fire to these e-materials and collect the waste while others weigh them and take them to people who buy them for recycling purposes. The Assistant Deputy Director, Chemicals Control Management, Alie Dukuray Jalloh, Environment Protection Agency (EPASL) said there is a huge occupational health hazard relating to the burning of e-waste. Jalloh said the people that burn these e-waste to get copper wires or scrap metals are exposed to harmful and toxic substances from the smoke of these burnt materials. “Burning e-waste generates Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) especially those known as (HBDEs). These substances are not easily degradable and can bio-accumulates in humans causing cancer, fertility problems, respiratory and endocrine system dysfunction. These pollutants can contaminate the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil we grow our crops.” However, Jalloh said there is a positive side to the scrap metal collectors. He said they help directly in solid waste management by reducing the total volume of solid waste. They contribute to the management of solid waste by aiding in recycling. It gives them employment and daily income. “Though we do not have a policy on solid waste management, we are working with the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) to ensure that any entity that works in this sector complies with the EPAs Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations
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Brima Turay who finds scrap metals at the dumpsite at Kingtom said he left school at JSS3 and since he could not secure a job, he decided to salvage scrap metals for sale. He said he knows a lot of people including women who are engaged in the business. “This is where we make our living,” he said. Fatmata Bangalie at Kissy Bomeh dumpsite said that they are aware of the health risks they face by engaging in the scavenging for scrap metals. She said the management of the dumpsite does not allow them now to set fire in the dumpsite and that has made life difficult for them. Alpha Bah, who makes rings and bangles from copper wires, said they can buy a kilo of copper wires for Le2,500. “When we make them into rings bracelets, bangles and earrings, we can and sell them for Le 3,000 and make some profit,” he said.
By David Thoronka
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