A recent United Nations report revealed that approximately 70 percent of globally produced e-waste is being exported to China for disposal, making it the largest e-waste dumping site in the world.
Many of these products are originally manufactured in China and are finding their way back through illegal exportation from developed countries, even though the U.N. has a ban that strictly prohibits this practice.
Over the past decade Guiyu, a small town in southeastern China, has become a major hub for the disposal of e-waste. Here, hundreds of thousands of people dismantle the world's electronic junk in dangerous, primitive ways. The effects on the environment and the health of the local community are catastrophic.
The U.N. report stated that the e-waste disposal industry has caused “environmental calamity” in Guiyu. Much of the toxic pollution is a direct result of burning the equipment and washing it with hydrochloric acid.
The washing technique is used to obtain valuable metals from devices. For example, approximately 35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered for every million cellphones recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The U.N. report showed that using the burning and washing methods releases hydrocarbon ashes into the air, water and soil, and it contaminates the environment with toxic heavy metals.
While Guiyu locals downplay the potential damage their work has on their health, studies conducted by Shantou University Medical College have shown reasons for concern. Reports revealed that many children tested in Guiyu had higher than average levels of lead in their blood, which is known to stunt the development of the brain and central nervous system.
In addition, mercury can be released into the environment during the dismantling and disposal of electronic devices like mobile phones, TVs and computer monitors. Mercury can easily accumulate within the food chain, particularly fish, causing damage to the brain and kidneys.
What can you do?
To ensure your wireless devices and other electronic equipment are being recycled responsibly, be sure to only work with an e-Stewards certified recycler. The certification is recognized globally and e-Stewards recyclers and their downstream vendors are rigorously audited to ensure they adhere to the highest standards for responsible recycling and reuse of electronic equipment. e-Stewards is the only electronics recycler certification in the world that strictly prohibits the export of toxic e-waste into developing countries, includes industry-specific worker health and safety requirements and bans the use of child, slave and prison labor.
e-Cycle is the first wireless buyback and recycling company in the world to achieve e-Stewards certification. To learn more about responsible mobile phone and tablet recycling, contact us at www.e-Cycle.com.