Have you ever wondered what happens to your old laptop or mobile phones when you throw it away? Chances are some of your old electronic junk will end up in China.
On seemingly every street, laborers sit on the pavement outside workshops ripping out the guts of household appliances with hammers and drills. The roads in Guiyu are lined with bundles of plastic, wires, cables and other garbage. Different components are separated based on their value and potential for re-sale. On one street sits a pile of green and gold circuit boards. On another, the metal cases of desktop computers.
At times, it looks like workers are reaping some giant plastic harvest, especially when women stand on roadsides raking ankle-deep “fields” of plastic chips.
In one workshop, men sliced open sacks of these plastic chips, which they then poured into large vats of fluid. They then used shovels and their bare hands to stir this synthetic stew.
“We sell this plastic to Foxconn,” one of the workers said, referring to a Taiwanese company that manufactures products for many global electronics companies, including Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
According to a recent United Nations report, “China now appears to be the largest e-waste dumping site in the world.”
E-waste, or electronic waste, consists of everything from scrapped TVs, refrigerators and air conditioners to that old desktop computer that may be collecting dust in your closet.
Many of these gadgets were initially manufactured in China. Through a strange twist of global economics, much of this electronic junk returns to China to die.
“The Men Who Make Us Spend”
View the following film produced by the BBC. (20 min)