The World’s Largest Electronic Waste Dump

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A recycling electronic waste factory is seen beside a field in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. The town of Guiyu in the economic powerhouse of Guangdong province in China has long been known as one of the world’s largest electronic waste dump sites. At its peak, some 5,000 workshops in the village recycle 15,000 tonnes of waste daily including hard drives, mobile phones, computer screens and computers shipped in from across the world.

Many of the workers, however, work in poorly ventilated workshops with little protective gear, prying open discarded electronics with their bare hands. Plastic circuit boards are also melted down to salvage bits of valuable metals such as gold, copper and aluminum. As a result, large amounts of pollutants, heavy metals and chemicals are released into the rivers nearby, severely contaminating local water supplies, devastating farm harvests and damaging the health of residents. The stench of burnt plastic envelops the small town of Guiyu, while some rivers are black with industrial effluent. According to research conducted by Southern China’s Shantou University, Guiyu’s air and water is heavily contaminated by toxic metal particles. As a result, children living there have abnormally high levels of lead in their blood, the study found. While most of the e-waste was once imported into China and processed in Guiyu, much more of the discarded e-waste now comes from within China as the country grows in affluence. China now produces 6.1 million metric tonnes of e-waste a year, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, second only to the U.S with 7.2 million tonnes. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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Buffalos are seen adjacent to workshops recycling plastic components from electronic waste at the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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Metal cases are piled up on the outskirts of the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 9, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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A polluted river flows past a workshop used for processsing plastic components of electronic waste at the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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A motor tricycle transports electronic waste to one of the small workshops for recycling in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 9, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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Workers illegally distribute old computers and printers to others for future recycling outside the government designated recycling centre, at the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 8, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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A worker distributes electronic waste at a government managed recycling centre at the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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Circuit boards lie inside a home in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 8, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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A toy tricycle is seen on circuit boards at a workshop in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 8, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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CD players for recycling are seen at a workshop in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 9, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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Workers recycle CD players at a workshop in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 9, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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Old cellular phone components are discarded inside a workshop in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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Motor tricycles carrying electronic waste are transported to one of the small workshops for recycling in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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Plastic components of electronic waste are packed on a roadside in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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A polluted river flows past a workshop that is used for recycling electronic waste in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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A worker recycles CD players at a workshop in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 9, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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A man rides a motorcycle through the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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A new factory which is to be used for recycling waste is under construction at a government managed area in the township of Guiyu in China’s southern Guangdong province June 10, 2015. (Photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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