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    NJ native without the accent or the big hair. Currently residing in Beijing. Teaching English. Absorbing all things China. Exploring SE Asia.

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Desperate people will do desperate things: should people have to choose between poverty and poison?

Where do your old computers and electronics go? They go to electronic waste (e-waste) sites to be recycled, where valuable and metals are salvaged. Sounds good, right? If it’s done right, it’s a great source of secondary raw materials. But if it’s not done right, it becomes poisonous and deadly. E-waste fills 2% of US landfills, but e-waste is 70% of toxic waste.

So where does it all go? 80% of US e-waste ends up in India, China, and Kenya where there are many people willing to work for minimal pay in deplorable conditions. Toxins include lead, mercury, cadmium, PCBs, .

贵屿: Guiyu, China
Location: eastern Guandong province, southern China
Population: 150,000
Infamous for: the largest e-waste site on earth and therefore one of the most toxic places you could visit

Children play in dioxin-laden ash, soil is saturated with lead, chromium, tin, and other heavy metals. Water is undrinkable and is trucked in. There are piles of ash and plastics along rivers and fields. The waste is burned at night and is hand-stripped by workers by day without safety equipment or protection. When the residents suffer from stomach disease, lung disease, miscarriages, birth defects, premature deaths, and other problems there won’t be any money or health care treatment for them. 80% of Guiyu children have elevated blood lead levels. Some internet sources have been bold enough to say that computers go to Guiyu to die and to kill.

60 Minutes ran a special titled “The Electronic Wasteland” on November 10, 2008. It’s just twelve minutes and well worth your time.

The transcript is here: http://www.ban.org/ban_news/2008/081109_following_the_trail.html

Planned obsolescence, buying new gadgets to keep up with the Jones’. Do you know where your no-longer-cool junk ends up? We’re proud of being Americans, but are we proud of this? When does the American Dream go too far at the expense of too many people?

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One Response

  1. I just read your post and watched the video on e-waste. Have you come across any solutions – what can we do personally to make sure our waste isn’t a contributor to the problem?

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