Guiyu, China's Americanized e-Waste Capital

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/21/2009 10:19:00 AM
If you ever wondered where your disposed-of electronics go, chances are that it will find its way back to the country where it was originally manufactured. TIME recently had an interesting article on Guiyu, China. Notably, the US is once again an enviro-villain as it is the only developed country not to have ratified the Basel Convention on hazardous waste exports to LDCs. Is this the "way of life" Obama doesn't want to apologize for? It would be appalling if the answer was "yes":
The U.S. is the only industrialized country that refused to ratify the 19-year-old Basel Convention, an international treaty designed to regulate the export of hazardous waste to developing nations. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees the export of only one type of e-waste--cathode-ray tubes in old TVs and monitors--and a report last August by the Government Accountability Office dismissed the EPA's enforcement as "lacking..."

A lot of exported e-waste ends up in Guiyu, China, a recycling hub where peasants heat circuit boards over coal fires to recover lead, while others use acid to burn off bits of gold. According to reports from nearby Shantou University, Guiyu has the highest level of cancer-causing dioxins in the world and elevated rates of miscarriages. "You see women sitting by the fireplace burning laptop adapters, with rivers of ash pouring out of houses," says Jim Puckett, founder of Basel Action Network (BAN), an e-waste watchdog. "We're dumping on the rest of the world."
I'm trying to cut down on e-waste by extending the life of an older model two generations removed from the current state of the art, an AGP 8x platform. Also, I have now committed to buying a laser-printed keyboard whose lettering doesn't eventually wear out with use. After seeing the slideshow presentation, I do feel guilty.