"They call this recycling, but it is really dumping by another name"
edgeorge at usuarios.retecal.es
Sat Nov 30 16:08:23 MST 2002
Today's throwaway culture has created a toxic timebomb - techno trash.
But will new laws deal with our mountain of unwanted computers, TVs and
toasters? Rachel Shabi reports
Saturday November 30, 2002 The Guardian
It had to end here, in an impoverished region of Asia. Once a peaceful,
rice-growing village, Guiyu, in the Guangdong province of China, has
become an electronic junkyard - a grotesque, sci-fi fusion of technology
and deprivation. Guiyu, and many places like it in India, Vietnam,
Singapore and Pakistan, is where electrical waste from the west is
routinely shipped for "recycling". Around 100,000 men, women and
children in Guiyu make $1.50 (94p) a day, breaking discarded computers
and other electronic goods - mainly American, but also from the UK -
into component materials of steel, aluminium, copper, plastic and gold.
This is the gloomy underside of our glorious technology and the
voracious rate at which we consume it. There is an inevitable logic to
this scenario, that the redundant products of a hi-tech economy should
end up in parts of the world too poor to protest: "Toxic waste will
always run downhill on an economic path of least resistance," explains
Jim Puckett, coordinator of the Basel Action Network (BAN), a global
BAN's documentary film, Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing Of Asia,
released in December last year, reveals what happens at the end of the
techno-waste line, in villages such as Guiyu. Sprawling mountains of
wires are gathered and burned - in the open air - to liberate the metals
from their plastic surrounds; computer and TV monitors are broken, by
hand, to extract tiny amounts of copper; circuit boards, melted over
coal grills, release valuable chips and toxic vapours. Leftover plastics
are either burned, creating piles of contaminated ash, or dumped along
with other processing residues in rivers, along irrigation canals or in
fields. It is primitive, dangerous work. Poisonous waste creeps into
skin and lungs and seeps into the land and water: Guiyu's soil contains
200 times the level of lead considered hazardous; the drinking water is
2,400 times over the World Health Authority (WHO) lead threshold. "We
found a cyber-age nightmare," says Puckett. "They call this recycling,
but it is really dumping by another name."
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