3 Jul. 2015
A recycling electronic waste factory is seen beside a field in the township of Guiyu in China's southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. The town of Guiyu in the economic powerhouse of Guangdong province in China has long been known as one of the world’s largest electronic waste dump sites. At its peak, some 5,000 workshops in the village recycle 15,000 tonnes of waste daily including hard drives, mobile phones, computer screens and computers shipped in from across the world. Many of the workers, however, work in poorly ventilated workshops with little protective gear, prying open discarded electronics with their bare hands. Plastic circuit boards are also melted down to salvage bits of valuable metals such as gold, copper and aluminum. As a result, large amounts of pollutants, heavy metals and chemicals are released into the rivers nearby, severely contaminating local water supplies, devastating farm harvests and damaging the health of residents. The stench of burnt plastic envelops the small town of Guiyu, while some rivers are black with industrial effluent. According to research conducted by Southern China’s Shantou University, Guiyu’s air and water is heavily contaminated by toxic metal particles. As a result, children living there have abnormally high levels of lead in their blood, the study found. While most of the e-waste was once imported into China and processed in Guiyu, much more of the discarded e-waste now comes from within China as the country grows in affluence. China now produces 6.1 million metric tonnes of e-waste a year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, second only to the U.S with 7.2 million tonnes. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu
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