US cyber-waste dumped in Asia

Farmers in China, India and Pakistan have been duped into believing that they are to become a part of the US’s booming technology industry. In reality, their land has become a dumping ground for US cyber-waste. Unwanted computer hardware and electronics junk is sent via recycling plants in California to towns in China, India or Pakistan, where it is either dumped into irrigation canals or burned in paddy fields. In Guiyu, China, around 100,000 villagers are paid $1.50 per day to break apart computers and monitors to salvage valuable materials, using only hammers, chisels and other crude tools with no protective clothing. They crack, smash and burn components, unaware of the potentially hazardous chemicals they are releasing. ‘We found a cyber-age nightmare,’ said Jim Puckett from the environmental group Basel Action Network. ‘They call this ?recycling?, but it is dumping by any other name.’ Puckett’s group has produced a report showing that e-waste is the fastest growing waste-stream in the industrialized world. In America, up to 80 per cent of what the country terms ‘recyclable’ electronics waste is sent to Asia.

New Internationalist issue 345 magazine cover This article is from the May 2002 issue of New Internationalist.
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