We're still having nightmares about the photo essay published in Time magazine last January depicting Guiyu, a city in China overrun with old electronics. (Is that my old cell phone in the pile?)
The shocker is that 80% of the electronics come in to Guiyu from overseas to be recycled. Workers process about 1.5 million pounds of electronics a year, breaking down old computers, cell phones, and other devices to access the tiny amounts of metals within the wiring. "Recycling" so much e-waste has taken a heavy toll. The city's water has become black with pollution from dumping waste. Children suffer from one of the highest rates of lead poisoning in the world, and the women of Guiyu experience a high number of miscarriages. Properly and safely recycling electronics is expensive in the United States and other First World countries, which is why so many devices end up in China or India, where regulations are much more lax. Human beings and the environment shoulder the cost instead.
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