E-waste 'recycling' in Guiyu, China - 01

I've had a lot of interest in the 'China e-waste' album in my portfolio which you can find on the first screen of the portfolio page, ninth album along.

So today I decided to upload more photos from a recent trip to Guiyu, the 'e-waste processing capital of China', that I made as part of a field project for my MJ course at the University of Hong Kong's JMSC. I have put these photos at the back of the album, behind the photos from Guangxi Province and Hong Kong that I took in 2007 and 2008. I've posted a few of them here on the blog page, but if you want to see them in their full screen beauty just go to the Portfolio page, then click on the full screen icon which looks like this:

For those who are unfamilar, Guiyu is centred at the centre of the world's 'e-waste' processing industry. Illegal container loads of discarded electronic goods from the United States, Japan and Europe, find their way to China via the port of Hong Kong. Most of it usually ends up in Guiyu for 'recycling' at informal e-waste processing factories, of which there are around 3,000 in the town. Computers, printers, keyboards, CRT monitors, mobile phones, and other obsolete high tech junk can be seen in large piles strewn across Guiyu.

Much of the work is highly lethal. Migrant workers dip computer integrated circuit boards into vats of sodium cyanide to extract lead and precious metals, such as gold, silver and cadmium. This is by far the most poisonous and dangerous e-waste processing job of all, as most workers get sick from doing this job within a month. Many soon die. The waste solution can contain lead, dioxins or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and is usually discarded by pouring the solution into the soil. It then leeches into the water table and the nearby Lianjiang River, leaving it severely poisoned.

The open burning of electronic items like printers and fax machines takes place on the banks of the river in Guiyu. This is so that metal components encased inside the items can be retrieved from their plastic shell for recycling. Obviously, this a less than ideal solution for the region's air quality.

The image quailty of some the photos is not great as I was shooting through a dirty windscreen most of the time (I never got out of the car is it's quite unsafe there), but I think the pictures speak for themselves.

With all the toxic lead and dioxins flowing into the tributaries of the Lianjiang River, which runs through Guiyu, I do wonder if the water in Hong Kong is safe to swim in. This is given the vast amounts of dioxins and heavy metals that flow into the sea at the river's estuary near Shantou, Guangdong Province, which must occasionally wash southwards towards Hong Kong on the ocean currents.

Basel Action Network seem to be the most active NGO on this issue. Check out their website here.

All images and text © Alex Hofford / Image Solutions Ltd. 2011 | Web design in Hong Kong by Ugli © 2011