In the Tsinga Elobi district in the Cameroonian capital Yaoundé, amidst toxic fumes, men and also children break, burn and dismantle electrical and electronic waste. They recover precious metals : copper, gold, aluminum, with the aim of reselling them, and the less interesting and also the most toxic materials are left abandoned on the ground.
Every day, hundreds of scrap metal dealers are working on this ecological and sanitary bomb, because electrical and electronic waste, known as “WEEE“, is the most toxic and technically the most difficult to clean up and recycle. Metals are recovered by burning in the open air or by leaching. An analysis of the soils shows a lead concentration 146 times higher than in French soils. They circulate very quickly in nature and accumulate in the fatty tissues of living organisms and humans causing cancers, lung lesions, DNA alterations.
Cameroon is a champion of reuse, clothing, cars, electrical equipment, the second-hand market is very developed. In 2010, 80% of this second-hand equipment came from Europe, where manufacturers are now obliged to ensure the treatment of electrical and electronic equipment at the end of its life, or in any case to finance this treatment, called extended producer responsibility. However, these devices can escape the recycling chain: in 2019, we did not know what had become of 82.6% of the 53 million tons of such waste worldwide.