Photo by Pieter Hugo, for The New York Times
What happens to your old computer when you dump it after two years to get the latest model? It probably gets shipped overseas to a developing country, where it is stripped for metals like copper, brass and aluminum.
The dumping grounds for old computers are hellish scenes of smoke and fire, smoldering keyboards, broken glass–detritus of the technology age. And it’s not just unsightly; it’s also a threat to the environment and health. The air is heavy with the stench of burning plastic, and the soil has high levels of heavy metals and other toxins, like PCBs and dioxins.
Yet, with all of these risks, dumping grounds have their inhabitants. The New York Times Magazine published a special photo feature on one such dump in West Africa: “In Agbogbloshie, a slum in Accra, the capital of Ghana, adults and children tear away at computers from abroad to get at the precious metals inside.” Pieter Hugo photographed the desperately poor people, including children as young as 11, who work in the smoke and fire and toxic rubbish to scrabble together a livelihood from our digital cast-offs.