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Agbogbloshie Environmental Pollution

Recycling Heliax Coaxial Cables at Agbogbloshie

Burning heliax coaxial cables in the open to recover copper-clad steel release highly toxic chemicals into the environment.

September 21, 2020

Heliax coaxial cable recycling at Agbogbloshie: Photograph of heliax cables that had been burned in the open to reclaim copper. PVC/PE insulated, open incineration released toxic substances into the environment. Copyright © 2020 Muntaka Chasant

Burning heliax coaxial cables in the open to recover copper-clad steel release highly toxic chemicals into the environment.

Unregulated and primitive recycling at Agbogbloshie is known to pose serious risks to human health and the environment through the release of toxic materials into the air, soil, and the nearby Korle Lagoon.

The men below had just finished incinerating heliax coaxial cables in the open and packing when I turned up there on a Sunday morning.

What Are Coaxial Cables?

Coaxial cables are used to carry high-frequency electrical signals — including broadband internet networking, cable television signals, and connecting radio transmitters and receivers to their antennas.

Burning Heliax Coaxial Cables Release Highly Toxic Materials into the Environment

Given polyvinylchloride (PVC) and polyethylene (PE) are used as insulating jacket materials, recycling heliax coaxial cables the usual Agbogbloshie way is a big problem.

Burning the PVC/PE outer sheaths and the foamed PE inside to recover the copper core release toxic substances, including carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride1, and hydrogen sulfide.

Where Did the Heliax Coaxial Cables Came From and Where Are they Headed?

The coaxial cables were collected from local sources. No one was willing to tell me where exactly they came from (in Ghana). I got the impression I probably shouldn’t know, so didn’t press it. Probably from cell sites and towers.

The copper are weighed and sold at the Agbogbloshie scrapyard for instant cash. Some are used by the local industry. They are also regularly exported out of Ghana, where they are used as primary inputs in the manufacturing of new products.

While Ghana has adequate laws to protect the environment and human health, they are rarely enforced. Not even at Agbogbloshie, which is also the largest open food market in Accra, Ghana’s capital city.

Read more about Agbogbloshie here:

Related: Agbogbloshie, Ghana (2020): Questions & Answers

Copyright © 2020 Muntaka Chasant



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