China’s e-waste: A multi-billion dollar toxic industry

World Today

Millions of people in China recycle electronic wastes for a living as level of e-waste grows in the country.


The village of Xiejia in northern Beijing is a major electronic waste recycling center where people dismantle large appliances and sell chips to the next place in the recycling chain, the town of Guiyu in Guangdong province.

Dubbed the “world’s largest electronic waste dump,” the tiny town has over 3,000 registered recycling businesses. Many use basic methods such as burning items and using corrosive acids to get gold, silver, copper, and other metals.


Studies have found that e-waste contains far more precious metals than ore. For example, there are 40-800 times more gold in a ton of circuit boards than from the same amount of gold ore.

The annual production value for the recycling operation is over $16 billion, Zhang Chufeng, former party chief of Guiyu, told Beijing Morning Post newspaper.

But the lucrative business comes at the cost of shocking pollution.


Huo Xia, a professor in the Medical School at Shantou University has studied the impact of the pollution leaking from the village on children for 11 years and told CCTV that the lead level has been beyond the standard level of 10, for years.

“In 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even said the measure should be five. Lead beyond this level will cause irreversible damage to brain cell development,” Huo said.

Her research also found that years of tracking vaccination results show that children exposed to the pollutants produce significantly lower levels of antibodies than the control group.