Questions raised over discarded unused e-waste in China

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Last updated April 12, 2019

A massive landfill filled with electronic waste in the southern China Guangdong province of Guiyu is much more than just a graveyard for old computers, according to an investigative writer from the United States who is based in Shanghai.

Electronic waste needs to be disposed of in a safe manner because it can be highly toxic in nature and Adam Minter, who writes the Shanghai Scrap blog, says that he has found boxes of defective yet unused electronics discarded at the site, many still in the original packaging from Samsung, Panasonic and HP.  HP and Panasonic have so far declined to comment but Samsung has strenuously denied any involvement, saying the components in question were manufactured some years ago.

Minter says that while once upon a time the great majority of electronic waste that was dumped in China came from the West, that is in fact no longer the case and now the great majority of it comes from Asia and indeed from China itself.

The soil in Guiyu is now so saturated with heavy metals including chromium, tin and lead that the groundwater is undrinkable, while the town has more cancer causing dioxins than anywhere else in the world, according to China’s Shantou University.  Old computers are not the only thing being thrown away there, with the disposal of unused electronics, including old cell phones, aggravating the problem still further.