What Is E-Waste And Why It Matters

We live in the technological age governed by devices we have made for ourselves to make our daily lives easier. Our smartphones serve as our central communications hub and dictate our work schedule. Our tablets grant us access to a limitless library of entertainment and creativity tools. Lastly, our PCs serve as our dependable workhorses for productivity.

Over time though, these devices bog down, malfunction and eventually cease to operate altogether. It is just a matter of choice whether we have our devices repaired if possible or the more likely scenario is replacing it with the latest model. Such practices are normal in the tech industry, with consumer electronics in particular. That shiny and new gadget we have right now will eventually be replaced with a better and more powerful model. It is what people refer to as “planned obsolescence”.

Ever wondered where all these electronic gadgets we throw away go? A recent study conducted over at the United Nations University has surmised that Asia has seen a huge spike of electronic waste or e-waste in 5 years between 2010 to 2015. This research which covers 12 countries all across Asia has observed it gain a 63% rise in e-waste which amounts to 12.3 million tons. China alone has doubled its e-waste in the same time frame by 107% or 6.7 million tons.

Guiyu, Home Of The World’s E-Waste

One town in particular has been known to be China’s e-waste village, seeing a huge influx of domestic and foreign electronic waste being scraped, recycled, and resold. Guiyu, situated in the Guandong Province of China is collective of 4 adjoined villages and is one of the dumpsites of the world’s e-waste wherein business specializing in its disposal are located.

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Workers here receive e-waste by the truckload for processing. They first strip away any parts and materials that are of value and can recycled or resold such as chips, copper, silver, and gold components. Plastic components in particular are being melted in a sort of acid bath which will then be resold to companies like Foxconn, which manufactures components for Apple’s iPhones.

Health And Environmental Concerns

This improper and primitive method of waste disposal has caught the attention of Greenpeace, an environmental NGO (Non-governmental organization) operating in multiple countries across the globe which points out the hazardous working conditions of the people here and the adverse effects all this pollution and waste has on the local environment. The food supply, the livestock, and water are all in danger of being contaminated by all these e-waste as most of them contain toxic chemicals such as mercury.

While measures have been taken in the past through the strict ban of e-waste disposal especially with imports of foreign waste into the country, the town’s current condition is far from ideal. With the steadily rising demand for electronic gadgets due to higher wages and better living standards, China has seen a huge rise in e-waste production within its own borders and is facing huge environmental and health issues.

Unless a better solution is developed to properly dispose of e-waste, this type of illegal and hazardous practice will continue, not just in this particular town alone but possibly spread to countries all over the globe.


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