Swaziland’s Incinerator Export: A Tale of Environmental Exploitation

Swaziland’s burgeoning e-waste export trade has sparked international concern, with the alarming practice of exporting obsolete electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) to neighboring countries through illegal incineration. This unsustainable and harmful practice poses significant threats to the environment and violates international environmental regulations.


Swaziland, a landlocked country in southern Africa, grapples with limited waste management infrastructure and limited economic opportunities. This vulnerability has unfortunately opened the doors for unethical entrepreneurs to exploit the situation. Unscrupulous companies exploit lax regulations and infrastructure gaps to export electronic waste (e-waste) from developed nations to Swaziland for incineration.

The Process:

E-waste collected from affluent nations is shipped to Swaziland in containers. These containers are often labelled as containing non-hazardous materials, deceiving customs officials. Incineration plants in Swaziland, often rudimentary and poorly equipped, are used to burn the e-waste, generating toxic fumes and leaving behind hazardous residues. These residues are then carelessly disposed of, polluting land and water sources.

Environmental Consequences:

This dangerous practice has devastating consequences for the environment. The incineration process releases toxic chemicals and heavy metals into the air, contaminating air and harming human health. The molten metal residues contaminate soil and groundwater, impacting local ecosystems. Additionally, the open burning of e-waste releases harmful gases like dioxins and furans, known carcinogens and persistent organic pollutants.

Health Impacts:

Swaziland’s population is exposed to severe health risks due to the impact of e-waste incineration. Toxic fumes contain a cocktail of hazardous chemicals that can cause respiratory problems, skin diseases, and cancer. Vulnerable groups, including children and those with pre-existing medical conditions, are particularly susceptible to these health hazards.

International Contraventions:

Swaziland’s e-waste incineration practice violates various international agreements, including the Basel Convention, which regulates the transboundary movement of hazardous waste. Such violations raise serious concerns about the country’s commitment to international environmental obligations.

The Way Forward:

Addressing this crisis requires a multi-faceted approach. Swaziland must:

  • Invest in sustainable waste management infrastructure, including recycling and reuse facilities.
  • Strengthen regulations and enforcement mechanisms for e-waste management.
  • Promote international cooperation and secure environmentally sound e-waste management solutions.


1. What are the key pollutants emitted during e-waste incineration?

The process releases toxic chemicals and heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, and chromium into the air and water.

2. What are the long-term consequences of e-waste incineration?

The practice leaves behind hazardous residues that contaminate soil and groundwater, and releases harmful gases that disrupt ecological systems and pose serious health risks.

3. What international agreements does Swaziland violate through e-waste incineration?

The country violates the Basel Convention and other international agreements regulating hazardous waste management.

4. What steps can be taken to address the problem?

Swaziland needs to invest in sustainable waste management, strengthen regulations, and promote international cooperation.


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