We Have A Situation!

E-waste recycling in Togo

Our project may be over but the “situations” continue, especially the growing global problem of e-waste. However there is some good news, such as this story from Togo, West Africa, and the StEP initiative – an organisation dedicated to solving the problem of e-waste.

The Togo story headline, “Is e-waste and untrapped treasure?”, underlines what a massive cultural shift we have experienced in the last 40 or 50 years in terms of disposability. Not so long ago, things were mended, and mended again, before they were considered not worth repairing, and even then, they were recycled rather than thrown out. I slept under a patchwork quilt made from offcuts and grown-out-of clothes; pram-wheels were recycled into an excellent trolley once babies became children; matchboxes were glued together and covered in recycled wrapping paper to become dolls’ house furniture; and so on. We had the same stereo, casette recorder, vacuum cleaner, fridge, freezer and toaster for my entire childhood (my mother is still using the freezer). I don’t remember having any broken electronic items, but if we did they probably would have been given to the repair shop to be disassembled and used for parts. Things were made to last, and after they’d lasted they were taken apart for anything that could be reused. We knew then that it was treasure, so how come we forgot?

Of course, we didn’t really forget; we just succumbed to pressure to consume, because it was easier. And now the real cost of that consumption is piling up around us …

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