For many of us, if a problem is out of sight, then it’s out of mind. It can be difficult to understand the true impact of an issue when it’s not something we see the results of in an immediate way. When it comes to e-waste, though, it’s important to understand the full impact that unregulated and irresponsible dumping has, not only on the environment but on our fellow human beings.

An estimated 20-50 million metric tons of old and broken electronic devices are disposed of globally every year. Many countries still don’t have e-waste recycling laws and, even in those that do, there are some people and businesses who would rather send their unwanted electronics overseas. 


Until recently, an excessive amount of the world’s e-waste was disposed of in the small town of Guiyu in the Guangdong province of China. Though its population comprises just 150,000 people and its disposal site measures just 52 square kilometers, in 2005 more than a hundred truckloads of e-waste were dumped in Guiyu every single day.


In 2013, Guiyu was recognized as the single largest e-waste dumpsite in the world. While efforts have been made to clean up the region since then, the mistakes made in Guiyu represent a sobering reminder of the dangers of improper e-waste disposal.

Effects of E-Waste in Guiyu

Before Guiyu became the e-waste capital of the world, its primary industry was farming. Today, Guiyu’s soil is so polluted that is unable to support crop growth. Likewise, river water is no longer safe to drink and the air is saturated with highly toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, chemical compounds banned in the U.S. due to their adverse effects on human health).


Guiyu is also home to the highest level of cancer-causing dioxins in the world, leading to increased rates of cancer in the local population. Cardiovascular disease, neurological, renal, and respiratory diseases are also unusually common in Guiyu, and it’s estimated that around 80% of children in the region suffer from lead poisoning, which puts them at a higher risk of developing physical and mental disabilities.


The rate of miscarriages in Guiyu is much higher than in other areas, and infants that are born tend to have dangerously low birth weights. Food in the region has been found to contain high levels of copper, nickel, lead, zinc, and other toxic substances.


Although more recent cleanup and healthcare outreach efforts have helped to mitigate the effect of e-waste pollutants in the region, it is likely that the impact on both the environment and local health will continue to be felt in Guiyu for generations to come.

An e-waste trash pile in Guiyu, Guangdong, China

E-Waste Exploitation

How did it come to this? The health crisis in Guiyu is a direct result of unethical exploitation by foreign entities and a lack of adequate e-waste regulation. Many of Guiyu’s residents were poor farmers who took e-waste dismantling jobs as a way of making ends meet.


Failing to conform to any proper recycling process standards, e-waste disposal in Guiyu was handled primarily by small, family-run workshops with poor conditions and little to no safety considerations.


In these shops, bare-handed laborers dismantled more than 1.5 pounds of discarded, computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices annually, with the goal of recovering gold, silver, and other precious metal components. Despite this, Guiyu’s e-waste workers were paid about $1.50 a day.


Because of the lack of e-waste oversight by Guiyu’s government, foreign entities were not only able to wash their hands of their unwanted electronics, but were also able to force impoverished people to endanger their lives for mere pennies, all for the profit of the same electronics manufacturers who utilize the metals that Guiyu’s residents recovered.

How We Can Prevent Another Guiyu

It is said that those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. After learning about the tragic impact of e-waste on Guiyu, Guangdong, is that situation you would want to see repeated? It could happen anywhere that e-waste laws are inadequate or where e-waste is illegally dumped despite those laws.


Newtech Recycling is committed to helping prevent another Guiyu from happening. That’s why we offer affordable, convenient, and ethical electronics, cell phone, and computer recycling services that you can depend on. Instead of letting your old tech devices end up in some landfill somewhere, polluting the environment and threatening human health, contact Newtech Recycling instead!

Contact Us Today to Prevent Problems Tomorrow!