Guiyu, China is known as the “Town of E-waste.” Thousands of its residents depend on processing electronic waste for a living. Guiyu receives its e-waste from China and from abroad, including places like Japan, Europe and America. Under Chinese law, most of the e-waste imported from overseas is illegal.
In Guiyu, e-waste processing stations, or e-waste assembly shops are common. Workers use their bare hands to dismantle e-waste, or protected only by gloves and masks. Their operations are primitive, toxic and dangerous. According to the CNC report, “They crack open the electronics and strip away the valuable parts that can be reused, such as gold and silver. Workers are also cooking [burning] circuit boards to remove chips and solders, and burning wires and other plastics to liberate copper.” Burning circuit boards release toxic fumes that can cause cancer, mutations and leukemia. Dumping untreated metals into local rivers contaminates the water.
To help the damaged environment, local government has banedn burning electronics in fires and soaking them in sulfuric acid. But this policy is hard to enforce because most of the households live on income from e-waste treatment and many do not care about environmental protections. In an attempt to fix the situation, China’s Ministry of Finance said that, starting in July 2012, there would be funds paid by producers and importers of electronic equipment to support safer e-waste disposal equipment.
Source: “Guiyu: E-wasteland of the World,” CNC, June 19, 2012, http://www.cncworld.tv/news/v_show/25325_Guiyu:_E-wasteland_of_the_world.shtml
Student Researcher: An Nguyen (Santa Rosa Junior College)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Santa Rosa Junior College)