What a Waste: The challenge of environmental colonialism

De Balie Academie
Mirthe Frese
Looking to treat yourself to a new laptop this year? Do you know what happens to your old one the moment you’ve thrown it out? Unfortunately, our discarded laptops, smartphones, and televisions create floods of dangerous electronic waste that is part of a larger story of racism, colonialism, and environmental degradation.

*** This programme is in English ***

Toxic materials discarded by ‘the Global North‘ cause significant environmental pollution and health risks for local populations in ‘the Global South’, reinforcing already unequal global power dynamics. Tonight, Joyeeta Gupta talks about environmental issues as a new form of colonialism, and together with Kees Baldé and Ama van Dantzig we investigate the harmful processes of ‘e-wasting,’ trying to find realistic solutions for this intercontinental problem.

The waste of outmoded electronics is often illegally shipped to so-called ‘e-waste cities’ in ‘the Global South’. They do create employment opportunities, but under appalling conditions, causing harm to both human and non-human life. When we discuss racism we often pay attention to the visible – local – level, but how can we tackle the more invisible, intercontinental forms of racism? And what solutions can counteract this in a world that is getting increasingly more dependent on technology?


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*** The satellite images in the programma are made by conceptual designer Noud Sleumer ***


Ama van Dantzig is co-founder of Dr. Monk, a cultural enterprise that focuses on social and sustainable innovation. With headquarters in Ghana and The Netherlands, she makes a connection between these countries. With a vast experience on the ground in many African countries and communities, she believes in the ability of people to generate ingenious solutions for the challenges of our times. She has got an academic background in Development Studies.

Joyeeta Gupta works at the University of Amsterdam as a professor in Sustainability and a professor in Development in ‘the Global South’. During this programme, she will give a keynote on Environmental Colonialism and what this concept can add to our discussion on e-waste

Kees Baldé took a position on the environmental statistics team at Statistics Netherlands, where he is the head of waste statistics. He is a Senior Programme Officer at the Sustainable Cycles Programme at the United Nations University, with a focus on sustainable development and circular economy.

Jonah Link works as a consultant and data analyst at New Economy. Jonah translates abstract data into practical models for analysis. For the Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam New Economy has conducted a research into the potential value of regional e-waste streams and critical raw materials. Jonah has a background in environmental sciences and sustainable business and innovation.

Ada Kong is a Beijing-based senior program manager of Greenpeace East Asia. Her work focuses on policy advocacy regarding the environmental impact of hazardous chemicals in China. In this programme, she will tell us more about e-waste in China.

Mike Anane is an independent Ghanaian environmental journalist and activist who works at the front line and is engaged in systematic and painstaking information gathering on environmental crime and e-waste dumping in Ghana. Over the years, Mike has been an eloquent and tireless defender of the environment and a major influence in global efforts and strategies to combat transnational e-waste trafficking. He has been raising awareness among all stakeholders on the need to create a dedicated legislative policy mechanism to manage e-waste and to combat illegal e-waste shipments to Ghana and other countries.


Ama van DantzigCo-founder Dr. Monk
Kees BaldéResearcher on E-waste
Joyeeta GuptaProfessor Sustainability and professor Environment and Development in the Global South (UvA)
Jonah LinkSustainable Entrepreneur
Ada Kongprogram manager of Greenpeace East Asia
Mike AnaneEnvironmental journalist and activist on e-waste